Flannery’s new role aimed at helping Offaly taking flight
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
IT IS the aspect of being an elite amateur sportsperson that the full-time proponent can never comprehend. Doing everything, or close to it, that the professional does with regard to fitness, strength, conditioning, technique and skills and combining it with a ‘real’ job.
For the high performance athlete, rest and recuperation are just as important as the exercise in terms of injury prevention. It is the area the amateur often has to skimp on.
Try telling Rory McIlroy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt, Conor Murray, Steph Curry, Roger Federer or Tom Brady about the 24-hour shift. They would recoil in horror unless perhaps in Ronaldo’s case, it involved 24 hours in front of a mirror. And even he wouldn’t indulge in such a draining exercise the week of a major game.
When sport is not your means of making a living however, you have no choice and do the best you can within that framework. It makes the feats of so many in Ireland in particular, all the more notable.
Take Offaly star Siobhán Flannery. She has established herself among the camogie hierarchy since breaking through as a 16-year-old in 2006, taking on many roles but largely controlling games from midfield or especially centre-back.
Today, Offaly host Tipperary at St Brendan’s Park in Birr with a place in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland quarter-finals up for grabs.
On Tuesday, Flannery was on 24-hour guard duty as a member of the Defence Forces. It isn’t ideal preparation but it is part of a job she loves so she deals with it.
“Once you get your rest it’s fine and here, they’re very nice about it” says Flannery. “They won’t put you on the day before a big game. You can work around it.”
The 26-year-old joined the Army after acquiring an engineering degree in 2011 and trained in The Curragh. She has been stationed with the Air Corps in Baldonnel for the past year. Given that she wants to remain based at home due to her camogie commitments, that entails plenty of travelling. Again, not ideal, but Flannery makes it work.
At base, she leads a team of technicians responsible for all the radios and other airfield equipment on the ground.
“I’m really enjoying it. You’re learning all the time and every day is different, which is brilliant.”
It is why she joined the Defence Forces in the first place.
“I liked that it was different and it’s outside work the whole time, getting busy with the hands which I like. I wouldn’t like to be behind a computer 24/7.”
She had never thought of the traits from work that might prove useful on the pitch but when queried, agrees that there are some.
“I’m in charge of a team where I am now so you have to show a bit of leadership and I suppose on the field that is there as well. Keeping the fitness up here obviously works with the sport too.”
The St Rynagh’s star has been deployed in a different position at full-forward predominantly this year. Always a major scorer by virtue of her prodigious shooting from long distance, she is causing serious problems closer to goal now with her ball-winning power and accuracy, to such an extent that she was named WGPG player of the month for May.
“It’s a big change but I don’t mind. I’ll play where I’m put. I suppose the forwards is a nice place to be if you want to get on the scoreboard. At centre-back you control everything, at full-forward you have to be patient and wait. When the opportunity comes, and they don’t come too often, you have to take them. It’s a waiting game sometimes.”
Flannery was still a teenager as Offaly enjoyed a golden period, playing in three successive All-Ireland Finals. They lost the Premier Junior decider in 2008 at the death to Clare but made no mistake 12 months later and then in 2010, made the leap to the Senior grade by capturing the Intermediate title.
“From 2008 up to the first year in senior, they were brilliant years. There was a camaraderie there with the girls. Everything was building towards that. When I came in in 2007 even, you could see something was gonna happen. It was just a matter of getting the right bunch of girls at the right time with the right management and it happened.”
She is optimistic that with the introduction of a host of young players by Paddy Kirwan, something similar might be about to happen, as they blend with the more experienced mob such as herself, Arlene Watkins, Tina Hannon and Michaela Morkan.
So tight is Group 2 that while Cork have the semi-final berth in the bag, the remaining four teams are in contention for the two quarter-final spots. Score difference could very well come into play.
“It’s gonna be about putting a performance in and getting a result from that. We didn’t put in any performance against Wexford but all the other games have gone well, the training’s been going well so hopefully that’s the only slip-up we’ll have in the year. We’re hitting a peak and hopefully we can push it on.
“We’ve been in a number of quarter-finals in the last number of years. Our aim at the start of the year would have been to push that but we have to get there first and Tipperary are not going to be any easy task.
“They know if they get a result against us it could go anyway and they really put it up to Wexford last weekend so they’ll be taking confidence from that.”