Johnny Flynn relishing challenge of keeping Cliftonville at Irish League summit

Defender Johnny Flynn
Defender Johnny Flynn

Johnny Flynn is relishing the challenge of trying to cement Cliftonville’s position at the Irish League summit.

Flynn is preparing to link up with the champions after returning home from a successful stint on the mainland.

The 24-year-old defender joined Blackburn Rovers from Ballymena United in January 2008 before moving to Scotland where he enjoyed spells with Ross County and Falkirk.

The former Northern Ireland youth international signed a pre-contract with Cliftonville in March after deciding to move home with his family.

And now Flynn is ready to hit the ground running with the Reds as the Solitude club embarks on another title defence.

“I had spoken to my girlfriend about returning home at the end of last year. We were starting to look at schools for our son and we thought coming home was the best idea,” Flynn explains.

“There were a number of other clubs interested, including my old club Ballymena who I spoke to, but then Cliftonville’s name came up and things progressed from there.

“They obviously had won the title the year before, and they went on to defend it last season. That is a big draw – the fact that you are joining a successful team that are winning trophies.

“Every player wants to play in a successful team, and I want to try and play my part in keeping Cliftonville at the top.

“I can’t wait to meet up with the lads. It is building up to another exciting season for the club.”

Flynn was part of the Falkirk side that almost earned promotion to the Scottish Premiership last season.

The Championship club were defeated by Hamilton Academicals in a tense play-off semi-final, denying Flynn a heroic farewell.

“Hamilton went on to beat Hibernian in the play-off final – I think Falkirk would also have beaten Hibs if we had progressed,” Flynn said.

“I really wanted to help Falkirk gain promotion but it wasn’t to be. It would have been nice to sign off with such a big win.”

Flynn admits that if Falkirk had earned promotion, it wouldn’t have altered his decision to return home

“I wouldn’t have had any regrets – I had already made my mind up,” he added.

“Family always comes first and coming home was the best decision. We could have stayed in Scotland, but I could have ended up moving to another club and it would have caused a lot of upheaval.”

Flynn admits he has no qualms adjusting from full-time to part-time football following his return to the Irish League.

He has already launched his own JF Football Fitness business which he runs out of Excel 121 Gym in Derriaghy, and has lined up a number of coaching clinics for kids during the summer.

But despite remaining busy during the close season, Flynn insists his full focus will soon turn to Cliftonville.

“I had plans for the fitness business when I was at Ross County, but then I moved to Falkirk and it went on the backburner. But coming home offered me an opportunity to set it up,” he said.

“It is great and it has kept me busy. I join in with clients during the fitness sessions so I am always ticking over.

“But once pre-season starts with Cliftonville I will be taking a step back. Football is my main career so I won’t allow anything else to distract me from that.”