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Meath legend Seán Boylan says U20 row is 'a sad situation' and 'an awful shame'

Bernard Flynn and his management team resigned last month due to the unavailability of senior players.

Seán Boylan pictured at home with some stand out medals and awards from his career. Seán was helping to launch the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour Series for 2021.
Seán Boylan pictured at home with some stand out medals and awards from his career. Seán was helping to launch the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour Series for 2021.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

MEATH GAA LEGEND Seán Boylan says the U20 football row in the county is “a sad situation” and “an awful shame”.

Last month, Bernard Flynn resigned as manager of the Royals underage side, making the decision “with a heavy heart and much regret” due to the unavailability of senior players.

He explained his decision in a strongly-worded statement issued to the Meath Chronicle, detailing “a verbal and written agreement that senior players would be released for championship, an issue that has caused difficulties for previous management,” and was not honoured.

An All-Ireland senior winner in 1987 and 1988, Flynn was appointed as Meath U20 boss in early January on a two-year term, and assembled a star-studded backroom team.

But after the surprise resignation, Barry Callaghan and Seán Kelly now take the reins for the Leinster championship campaign.

Sharing his thoughts on the off-field fiasco at the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour Series Launch, Boylan began:

“When something becomes as public as that all round, it’s a sad situation. The manager of the senior team is Andy [McEntee], Bernard is looking after the U20s but like, when Bernie got the job, we hadn’t the lockdown that we’ve had since, do you know what I mean?

“And all these things changed. Suddenly, Andy found himself in the situation against Kildare that he lost two players through injury and he lost two through suspension.

You just only wish, and that’s all I’m saying, that there couldn’t have been a coming together beforehand; ‘Can you help me out?’ or whatever. Now, it would be a factor that over the last few years, last year and the year before and the year before, the U20s were stretched because there were very good players on the team that the senior management wanted.

“Now, if the thing was spread out a little bit more it might have been different, in other words that the games weren’t coming as quick and the fact that if they played for the seniors, they couldn’t play for the U20s four days later, and that’s really, really difficult.

“It’s difficult for the young lads because this U20 team, they’re the team that were in the All-Ireland final a couple of years ago, and the three lads involved would have played in that. I just find that… but Bernie had taken the job for two years, he’d given his word and so on. Then he found that he couldn’t fulfil what he thought he’d be able to do. Do I play Andrew? Do I blame anybody? That’s the situation, that’s the situation that he found himself in.

“There’s a lot of honour there and he’s a great coach. It’s an awful shame because, you know, Graham Reilly, Graham Geraghty, Kevin Cahill, other different lads who were with him, Peter Leahy and so on but like when he suddenly found that he couldn’t go on, that’s why he took the decision that he took.”

“Andrew was caught in the situation where he was stuck for players,” iconic manager Boylan, who is now involved with the Down U20s, continued.

“Unless you’re at the meeting, you don’t really know what goes on but I know, and I’d like to think that if I was in the chair and the two lads came across the table and they were stuck, I’d say, ‘Listen lads, can we abandon the meeting now, can we sit down and try to sort this out’.

You had two very strong-willed men, two very good footballers, two great football brains. But at the end of the day the aim should have been whatever is going to be the best for the county and only time will tell for the U20s and for the seniors [if it was for the best].

“All I’d hope is that people can put… it’s not life and death, but as a sportsperson, whether you can play or you can’t play, that can seem like it. But it’s not really.

“And that, you know, everybody would get back playing again, that’s what you want to see happening. And I don’t want to see Bernie Flynn lost from management in our county either.”

When asked if he felt Meath football was the big loser in general after the fallout, Boylan nodded.

“Yeah, I would, because, honest to God, it’s hard enough to manage when things are going right. I know you’ll always have problems and there’ll always be issues, whether it be with board or with clubs or whatever, but you should never lose sight of what’s going to be right for the team.”

The conversation wasn’t all negative, though. The county’s minor team lifted the 2020 Leinster championship crown on Wednesday night and the ladies footballers tasted Division 2 league success last weekend.

All focus now turns to McEntee’s seniors as they face Longford in this weekend’s provincial quarter-final, hoping to bounce back from their failed league promotion bid against Kildare in Division 2.

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sean-boylan Boylan had a similar backroom team role with DCU. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Boylan will be keeping a close eye, his own inter-county involvements lie in the Mourne county. 

Seeing his U20 advisory role as simply being “a voice with experience” and “a voice from outside,” helping with “simple management things,” Boylan feels it was a massive compliment to be asked in by Kilcoo man Conor Laverty.

“I’m enjoying the craic no end,” the 71-year-old said. “You could well imagine, 30 years ago they beat us in an All-Ireland final so I’m not going up to tell Down men how to play football.

“Conor Laverty and Martin Clarke would be very dear friends of mine. Because it’s their first time as a management team, they asked me would I just be in the background or whatever it is, a bit similar to the role I had with Niall Moyna in DCU.

“When you have Mickey Whelan and Mick Bohan and Dermot Sheridan and so on, and Niall, you don’t need me because it upsets the age profile. But I have to tell you that I really enjoy it because a few little trips up there to Drumaness, that’s north Down, the roads I was going reminded me of years ago when I was playing hurling for Meath, never mind going up with the footballers afterwards so it was nice to do that.

“I’ve absolutely loved it because the lads are being coached really, really well. To see the changes in them, to see how they adapt and to see how they’ve come together as a unit, that’s been really nice.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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