IT’S A RUNNING joke among Ben Brennan and his pals at St Colmcilles that James Conlon could very well be Bernard Flynn’s long-lost son.
Meath great Flynn started out at the east-Meath club just outside Drogheda and made his name as a small but skilful forward who could kick points off either foot.
Meath’s James Conlon will be hoping to make a big impression on Sunday.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Conlon is cut from exactly the same cloth and scored five points from play on his full championship debut against Laois last time out.
Like Flynn, he’s one of the shortest players on the pitch but ultra mobile and two-footed, kicking six of his nine championship points this summer off his right foot and the rest off his left.
At 21, the hope is that the 2017 All-Ireland intermediate club final goalscorer can go on to enjoy All-Ireland success in the future like Flynn with a Meath team on the up.
“We call him Bernard’s son!” smiled Brennan, who captained St Colmcilles to that club final at Croke Park two years ago. “It’s impossible to get away from the comparison, isn’t it? Coming from the same club, with the same way the two lads play, the same position, you couldn’t get away from it.
“It’s just good to have someone doing what he does. He’s something different. In an age where it’s all about athleticism and how big and strong you are, it’s good to see a fella with a skill-base and a bit of agility doing well. It’s just something different and I suppose that’s why he catches the eye.”
Conlon got his opportunity after impressing as a sub against Offaly and Carlow and lit up Croke Park on his first summer start against Laois.
Brennan knows Dublin will be forewarned though and doesn’t want to heap any extra pressure on his young colleague.
“He’s always showed that promise inside the county with the club, I suppose he just showed it on a bigger stage the last day,” said Brennan.
“But he’s played one good game really, I wouldn’t want to be too quick to say how great he is going to be. If he keeps improving the way he is then he’ll be a good addition to Meath football.”
Brennan, six years older at 27, is still finding his own way in the Meath attack. He made his championship debut against Longford last summer and was top scorer with 0-6 in the subsequent qualifier defeat to Tyrone.
Brennan pictured ahead of the Leinster senior football championship.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Months later, he and his partner had their first child, baby Tadhg, making Brennan the only father on the entire panel.
“It’s tough going when he’s up a couple of times a night,” said Brennan. “My girlfriend would probably say she’s the one up most of the time but I still get woken up. Ah, I’m used to it all now. He was born in December so it’s not as if it happened just in the middle of the league or just before the championship.”
Tadhg wore a Meath jersey with number 11 on the back for the recent win over Laois at Croke Park.
It was a new and novel experience to have his young family supporting him and Brennan admitted his outlook has shifted, on life and football.
“Match days used to consume my thinking,” he said. “But now, once you’re at home you’re at home and you’re busy. You can’t be anywhere else apart from looking after a crying baby.
It’s your role now and I suppose it takes your mind off football too, it’s a positive if you look at it that way, that you are not bogged down with what’s coming up and you’re not overthinking things. You are busy looking after a baby.
With the demands on inter-county players never as high, it’s no surprise that so few are fathers but Brennan is confident he can make it all work.
“My partner has been great, she’s very supportive,” he said. “She knows it’s not forever. I’ve only started playing for Meath last year and I might only get another couple of years out of it at the most. And sure look at the memories it has brought us already, going to Croke Park with Tadhg and seeing me in a league final, it’s stuff you can’t buy. It might be hard work now but in years to come when you look back it’s priceless stuff.”
Maybe Tadhg will get to see his Dad help Meath to a famous win over the old enemy tomorrow. He’s a key player now, starting 10 of their 11 league and championship games this season, returning 0-13 in the process.
“We are just immersing ourselves in what we do and concentrating on how we can perform to the best of our ability,” said Brennan. “If we’re going to perform in a Leinster final as we want to do then we can only think about ourselves.”
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