Rest in Peace
Tipperary Town and surrounding districts were saddened to hear of the passing of Michael (Mick) Flynn last week.
A true legend of soccer in Tipperary, Mick devoted his sporting life to famed Tipperary Town club, St. Michaels.
Mick, born in Tipperary Town in 1944, spent his schooldays with a keen interest in wildlife. He was particularly interested in birds and could name off every species at first sight. He bred quite a few and if anybody wanted a canary, pigeon or finch, Mick was the man to go to.
He was very athletic and from an early age his talent at sports was recognised. He was a very accomplished player and began his career as an outfield forward with a powerful left leg.
However, he eventually found his favourite position as a goalkeeper and here he truly excelled. His temperament was ideal for the key position, full of confidence and natural ability. At the age of seventeen he made his debut for St.Michaels, a club he was to spend the rest of his life as player, mentor and president.
In the mid sixties, like many of his age, he was forced to emigrate and worked in Birmingham where he learnt to become a bus driver, another career he was to return to as we will see later.
After a few years he came back to Tipperary and secured a job at Gortdrum Mines, a few miles outside Tipp Town. Shortly after his return he met the love of his life, Rita Dooley from Ballyneety, Co. Limerick.
By now St. Michaels had a good, young, up and coming team and with Mick as netminder the future looked bright. In 1971 Saints had their first major success when winning the A.O.H. cup in Cork.
Mick was outstanding in that final with a series of excellent saves. His talent came to the notice of several League of Ireland clubs who sought his services.
With a good job at home and newly married, Mick decided to stay with St. Michaels. Over the next few years the honours poured in. In 1972 he was goalkeeper for the Tipperary League team which won the national inter-league Oscar Traynor trophy.
The following year, 1973, he captained St. Michaels to their first Munster Junior Cup success.
St. Michaels now cast their eyes on the big one, the F.A.I. Junior Cup. Many felt this would be a bridge too far. At that time Dublin junior teams were very strong and the trophy had stayed in the capital for most of the previous twenty years.
Dublin teams were, it seemed, invincible. However Saints felt, with a little bit of strengthening, they could do it. Already with excellent players in D.D. Cremins, Christy Egan, Billy Lonergan, Mikey Morey, Tommy Flynn, Des Drumm and John Joe O’Dwyer, they were fortunate local stars, Marty Hogan and Eddie ‘Hawk’ O’Dwyer returned to St.Michaels after successful stints in League of Ireland football.
Adding Ollie Matthews from Clonmel and Mick McDonnell (R.I.P.) from Cashel, St. Michaels had a formidable outfit. On May 12, 1974, on a terrible wet day at Tolka Park, Dublin, they beat the holders, Tolka Rovers, to create history. Again Mick Flynn played his part with an outstanding display in goal.
Mick continued playing with Saints for several more seasons before retiring in the early eighties. Although his playing career was over his connection to the club was far from finished. Joining St. Michaels veterans like Johnny Martin, Johnny Ryan Gucks, Tony Cusse, Peter O’Reilly, Joe O’Dwyer, Tommy Lewis and John Barron on the committee, he became a trojan worker behind the scenes.
He took over as manager of the team and guided them to league and cup success. He rose to the position of Chairman and was instrumental in the transfer from the ‘back of the chapel’ to Cooke Park in 1985/86.
As chairman of the club, he was a proud man when those green and white gates were unlocked for the first time and in the opening day match between a St.Michaels Selection and Limerick F.C, at the age of forty-two, Mick played the last quarter in goal.
In the nineties his involvement in the game continued and he became manager of Tipperary Southern District League Oscar Traynor Team. He also served several years on the TSDL management committee. When St. Michaels president, Eoin ‘Bud’ Aherne, passed away Mick succeeded him in the top position.
In 2016 Mick was recognised for his magnificent dedication to local soccer and St. Michaels when he received the prestigious Knocknagow Award at a magnificent function in Clonmel.
In the company of his family and friends he received a standing ovation. This was the icing on the cake for Mick and true recognition for a tremendous sportsman.
Mick had a strong infectious personality and endeared himself to many outside football. He crossed swords with many also and was well able to argue his point of view. Another major asset of his was, no matter how serious the argument was to-day, it was friends again to-morrow.
He was a renowned bus driver and many a tale one could tell about his exploits. For years he drove the school bus to Bansha and a generation of second level students have fond memories of him.
For several years he drove the daily bus to Dublin. Many will tell stories about how he would drop passengers at their homes rather than central Dublin.
On Sunday nights he drove young university students back to the capital and, fearing for their safety on dark nights, would drive them to their lodgings rather than leave them on the street.
His employers, Kavanaghs, recognising his ability, engaged him as a tourist coach driver. Mick was as happy as a pig in muck with this job. He entertained busloads of Yanks as he drove them throughout Ireland, England and the continent. He told them yarns along the way and as he would say himself, he was economical with the truth but he didn’t care once he made them laugh.
Although Tipperary Town wasn’t on his official itinerary, at times he took detours to show the Yanks his town. He was very proud of Tipperary Town and gave his support to any incentive to improve it.
Above it all, Mick was a true family man. Married to Rita for over fifty years they were a very united and devoted couple. They had four lovely children, Alan, Colin, Paul and Sandra. Unfortunately they lost Colin in an accident when he was age six.
Alan followed Mick with his love for St. Michaels and was a regular on the team for many years. Paul has taken up where Mick let off with the bus driving, working for Kavanaghs on school runs and tours.
Paul drives St.Michaels to all their away matches. Only daughter, Sandra, is strongly connected with St. Michaels and works really hard on the committee. On match day she can be seen welcoming visitors, making the tea for everybody at half-time and selling lottery tickets.
Over the past few years Mick’s health deteriorated as he battled bravely against Motor Neurone Disease. Despite his illness he continued to support his beloved St. Michaels, sitting in his car watching the games and saluting home and away supporters as they passed by. He loved to chat to former players from visiting clubs who took the time to come over to him.
Last August he was at the F.A.I. Junior Cup final where he saw St. Michaels make it three successes in this competition.
With tears of joy running down his face he was overjoyed when club captain, Chris Higgins, handed him the magnificent trophy, a trophy he proudly held forty five years previously. It made him so proud.
On Wednesday last, May 20, Mick was laid to rest. Despite the Covid 19 restrictions St.Michaels gave him a lovely send off. Following the noon Mass the cortege made its way, via his beloved Cooke Park, to St. Michaels Cemetery.
While maintaining social distance committee members, former players, neighbours and supporters walked beside the hearse.
There were emotional scenes outside Cooke Park. As the St.Michaels flag flew at half mast the cortege stopped. With the current players lined up outside the ground in their green and white tracksuits the C.J. Kickham Band played suitable music, among them ‘When the Saints go Marching in.’
The C.J. Kickham Band had a special attachment to Mick. Wherever and whenever they travelled, be it Ireland or England, they requested Mick was to be their driver.
When the funeral arrived at St. Michaels Cemetery, the coffin, bedecked in the green and white of St. Michaels, was carried shoulder high to his final resting place by family members.
Following prayers by Archdeacon Everard, the band played suitable solemn music and in a final act four pigeons were released into the air, a reminder of Micks love for birds.
May he Rest in Peace.