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Very good interview in the Tribune with Waterford`s 1959 full back.
He offered a wonderful and poignant quote on the day Larry Fanning was buried. Speaking of the burden of being the last Ireland winners in the county Flynn said
"We`re too old to be heroes any more"
An Fear Rua
A fine article.
Here`s the full text:
Call for `08 heroes to graduate
Austin Flynn is Waterford`s last full-back to win an All Ireland, but desperate to become second last as he recalls what made a special team
Austin Flynn remembers the place: Fraher Field. He remembers the moment: an evening early in 1957. He remembers above all, because he cannot forget it and never will, the soaring oratory of Pat Fanning, the new chairman of the Waterford county board. Half a century on, Flynn can summon up the future GAA president`s words at will. "As God is my judge," Fanning declared, "I believe there`s the winning of an All Ireland for Waterford in this team. It will take a great effort. You will have to give a great commitment. You will have to give until it hurts and then give more. Everything possible will be done by the county board. But lads, it`s a matter of pride in the Waterford jersey. Cork and Tipperary and Kilkenny have their tradition. But we have our tradition too. It`s easy to come back when you`re winning. But picking yourself up and coming back for more – that`s Waterford`s tradition."
Flynn looked across the dressing room at Séamus Power and Philly Grimes. This, he concluded, was serious stuff. The rest was both history and hysteria. Flynn can still see Tipperary`s Liam Devaney scratching his head in mystification as Waterford hit one of the nine goals that did for the reigning All Ireland champions in the 1959 Munster semi-final. ("I was as surprised as he was." ) He can still picture Power soloing in for the late goal that was deflected past Ollie Walsh to take that year`s All Ireland final to a replay. He can still feel the lorry rattling across the bridge in Waterford with the new champions on top and hear the roar of the ecstatic throngs that lined the city streets for the homecoming. Ask him if Waterford`s greatest-ever team should have won more than just the one of the four All Ireland finals they contested and he replies that the real tragedy is that it`s taken the county 45 years to return to Croke Park in September. Austin Flynn remains the last full-back to win an All Ireland with Waterford. It`s his dearest wish for next Sunday that he`ll finish the day as the second-last full-back to win an All Ireland with Waterford.
Before he became an intercounty player he`d been perfectly content to be a club player. At home in Abbeyside they had hurling, they had football, they had the scouts and they had boats. In 1957, Flynn was happy with life as it was and had just finished building a 16-footer with his brother, based on the model of a stormy petrel in a book of boat plans someone had given him and made, in the absence of marine plywood, with larch from Mount Melleray priory. "I was fulfilled playing for the village. I had no great ambition to play for Waterford. That all changed that night in Fraher Field."
He wasn`t stepping entirely into the unknown. Five years earlier he was coming home from the pictures in Dungarvan one summer night when he found Michael Fives, the Abbeyside chairman, and Seaneen O`Brien, the captain, waiting for him at the Poor Man`s Seat, a local landmark. He`d been called up to the Waterford panel for the provincial quarter-final against Clare the following day, they told him. Flynn was upset rather than elated, but his clubmates weren`t having any of it. "You can`t leave the village down tomorrow," O`Brien warned. "You`ll have to turn up." Hoping he wouldn`t be called upon, Flynn travelled in to Waterford, came on as a substitute and kept his place for the replay in Thurles, where he was picked to start on the great Clare forward Matt Nugent. Waterford won but were run over by Tipperary in the semi-final. That was the end of Flynn in the white and blue for a while.
"Looking back on it, what strikes me now is that Waterford had won the All Ireland senior and minor – an amazing achievement – only four years earlier, in 1948. This was 1952. Things had slipped so much in a short space of time. We were so disorganised."
By 1957, however, a gifted generation had emerged in Mount Sion, supplemented by a barnstorming centre-forward from Ballyduff in Tom Cheasty. To listen to him, Flynn was merely a member of the supporting cast, albeit a determined and strongly-built one. Nor did he employ his heft for dark purposes, choosing instead to live or perish by a sportsman`s prayer he recited before every game. "A proper gentleman," says his old teammate Frankie Walsh.
If Fanning was the group`s inspiration, an orator so gifted that when he finished speaking you were, as Flynn puts it, "ready to break down the door for Waterford or die in the attempt", John Keane, the former great centre-back, was their trainer and unofficial psychologist. Keane`s specialty was the quiet word in a player`s ear when he felt the occasion required it. For the replay of the 1959 All Ireland final they trained in Dunhill due to renovations at Walsh Park. One night Flynn was hurling so well that he was stunned to be taken aside by Keane. "Austin, you`ve done enough tonight. Go in and get a rub." Come the replay, the trainer`s logic became gloriously clear as Waterford beat Kilkenny by 3-12 to 1-10. "We were much fitter. That was the telling factor. John had pulled us back a bit in training because he could see we were just right and he didn`t want to overdo it."
In a sense both Flynn, who lives in Dungarvan and worked for the old South Eastern Health Board for many years, and Waterford hurling have never managed to escape the shadow of the past. Out on the pitch in Semple Stadium with his grandsons Gus, Cormac and Cathal after last year`s National League triumph, he was approached by a husband and wife of a certain vintage.
"God be with 1959," the woman announced, all smiles. "We came back from our honeymoon in London for the replay." God be with 1959 indeed. But not for much longer, Flynn trusts.
He continues to travel to the games with the three lads and his son-in-law. Prior to last month`s semi-final he was "just hopeful". For Waterford to beat Tipperary, he knew, a lot of things would have to go right on the day. To his slight surprise and overwhelming joy, they did. Produce the same spirit next Sunday and he`s confident they`ll go close. "If they can start against Kilkenny like they did against Tipp, they`ll be there or thereabouts at the final whistle. But they`ll have to be careful because Kilkenny will want to do like they did last year against Limerick." He`s glad to see the end of the experiment with Ken McGrath at full-back, not because he doubted that McGrath would make a success of the position but because he doubted the Mount Sion man would be able to make as big a contribution to the collective as he makes at centre-back. "In my time all you were doing there was trying to protect the goalkeeper from being killed."
He remains uncomfortable with what he terms the "exaggerated importance" assigned to the survivors of the 1959 team. "People in Kilkenny and Cork and Tipperary, where they produce great hurlers and then move on, have no understanding of what an All Ireland would mean to the young fellas of Waterford. And to the older people too, the ones who`ve been following the county for the last 45 years. Hopefully they`ll win it and end all the harking back to 1959. We`re too old to be heroes any more."
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