01 Jul 2022

His heart was always in Leitrim as county says final goodbye to the late great Cathal Flynn

Eulogy to the late Cathal Flynn

The funeral cortege of late Cathal Flynn arriving at St Peter’s Church Dunboyne

Former Leitrim footballer and Leitrim Supporters Club Dublin branch official Eamonn Duignan paid tribute to the late Cathal Flynn at the cremation ceremony at Dardistown Cemetary today (Thursday June 10). With his kind permission, we reproduce his tribute to one of Leitrim's All-time great footballers.

I would like to thank the family for inviting me to Cathal’s funeral mass and it is an honour for me to say a few words about the football legend Cathal  Flynn.

Cathal was a very active member of the supporters club, a very proud Leitrim man, whose heart was always in Leitrim, and in particular Gorvagh and the local community. He had a great attachment to the area and to its people as do Terri and his two sisters.

What can I say about Cathal?

Leitrim’s glorious years were the 1950s & 1960s. It is very hard to appreciate how good the Leitrim teams were in the 50s/60’ and how much the teams lifted the spirits of the Leitrim people at that time. In team sports the forwards who get the scores always make the news  and Cathal certainly made the headlines.

The hearse carrying Cathal Flynn on his final journey preparing to leave St Peter’s Church for Dardistown Crematorium surrounded by the Leitrim colours 

In the 50/60s there was no TV or no radio commentary and so the sources of record for my few words today are the local and national papers, and match programmes. Cathal first played county minor with Leitrim in 1951, that is 70 years ago this year. 

It is understandable that generations of Leitrim supporters have no knowledge of how good Cathal Flynn was.

Everyone has a hero and for Cathal, his hero was his father Charley from Selton, Gorvagh just outside Mohill. Cathal was an only son with two sisters Brid & Eilish. 

His father, a national school teacher, taught in St Peters in Phibsboro in Dublin from 1910-1914. He played with the Keatings Club in Dublin and played with Dublin in 1911, 1912 & 1913. His father returned to Gorvagh in 1914 as a teacher/and became principal in the local Adoon school and taught there until his retirement in 1954.

Charley was arrested in connection with the Selton Hill massacre and spent a week in jail in Carrick-on-Shannon and released without charge.

Charley Flynn, with the help of the Murphy’s, reformed the Gorvagh club in 1922 and Gorvagh went on to win four championships, a four in a row from 1924 to 27. He was a man that got things done and he was chairman of Leitrim County Board in 1927 when Leitrim won their first Connacht Championship,  a team which included 5 players from the Gorvagh club. Charley was also Leitrim’s Central Council delegate for many years.

You can see why Charley was a hero to Cathal. As he said himself “football was in my blood”. In an interview Cathal stated “my ambition is to win an All-Ireland with Leitrim”. His ambition sums up Cathal’s mindset. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get  all our young players in Leitrim today to have that same ambition?.

His football achievements are many:

  • Captain of Leitrim Minors in 1952
  • Leinster Senior Colleges medal with Franciscan College, Multyfarnham when they beat St Mel's in the final when he scored 1-7 out of 1-8
  • Two McKeever Cups 1957-1958

The 50s were tough times and money was scarce. Cathal told me in 1954 the Connacht subs had no jerseys but had to wear their own coats.

Cathal  made the headlines after the Railway cup semi final in 1958. He and his footballing twin Packie McGarty scored 1-7 out of 1-11 when Connacht beat Leinster in Ballinasloe  - of course they made the headlines next day - the Irish Press  headline was  ‘McGARTY & FLYNN stole the show in Ballinasloe'

He was selected for Connacht for five successive years – 1958/59/60/61/62

In the Connacht final of 1958, he scored the goal in the second half against Galway that the reports said ‘sent the Leitrim supporters wild’ . The final score was 2-10 to 1-11 with Cathal scoring 1-6. He never got over the disappointment of losing that final.

He played in five Connacht finals and won none.

Curate Fr Declan Kelly St Peters & Paul Church Dunboyne receives the remains of Leitrim GAA Legend Cathal Flynn on Thursday morning

Cathal won three Dublin Senior league with Sean McDermott’s (a small club with a big Leitrim contingent) in 1957, 1958, 1959, a great achievement, and lost the Dublin Senior Championship final to St Vincent’s in 1958.

Before the league semi final in Croke Park in 1959 against Derry Cathal said, in a pre match interview,  “This is the day I have been looking forward to all my life, only only because I play in Croke Park but its the day I play in Croke Park with Leitrim.”

That was the only time Cathal played with Leitrim in Croke Park. He did play with Connacht & Ireland. He has two Ireland Jerseys from 1960/1961 and he played with Leitrim from 1952-1966 = 14 years

He was untouchable in the Leitrim scoring charts – top scorer for the county for 10 years – 1956 to 1963, 1965 & 1966 - scoring 40 goals and 356 points

On the Dublin club scene he was the top scorer for both hurling and football in 1960 scoring 14 goals and 50 points (92 points in 18 game)

As a goal scorer, Cathal had few equals, as a place kicker he had none.

Various match reports describe him: 

  • "Every time Flynn got the ball - which was often, he had the Roscommon defence on edge"
  • "Flynn showed his marker ‘a clean pair of heels’ "
  •  "a wily elusive flyer" and "a model of accuracy"

He was a Leitrim Hall of Fame winner in 1984, selected on the Leitrim team of the Millennium

When you go through what Cathal achieved, you can only imagine what we all missed by not seeing him play. As his footballing twin Packie McGarty said “There was very few men who could mark Cathal Flynn.”

One final observation – Packy McGarty passed away on April 6. Cathal passed away on June 3. How many days apart is that? It is 58 days. McGarty and Flynn will forever be linked to 58.

May Cathal Rest In Peace

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