Back in business after planning for life after football
As Kildare complete their preparations for their visit to Croke Park, one former Lilywhite is preparing himself for journey of recovery, one that is unlikely to lead him back to GAA HQ.
When Brian Flanagan sustained a seemingly routine knee injury in 2013, he didn't think it would be the beginning of the end of his county career.
At the time, he was just 27 and had just started his own business, Flanagan Financials based in Enfield, and the future both as a Kildare footballer and an entrepreneur looked bright.
"When I set up, my thinking was that I was 27 and that if I built my business up over the next three or four years, I would have a business that was ready for me to fall back into when I'd retire," he explains. "I was trying to make the most of my last few years playing."
The injury, which turned out to be a ruptured cruciate, closed one of those doors for him but, having planned his off-field future, his goals remained clear.
"I came into the financial business itself in 2008, probably the very worst time," he says.
"However, they say there's no better time to set up a business than during a recession and if you can make it work then you can make it work anytime so I wasn't too worried about it. I had built up good experience and a good book of clients so I was confident.
"My business is very much people-focused and that's what I love about it, you're meeting new people everyday."
The first six months of the new business posed a lot of challenges for Flanagan, who was juggling a county football career.
Yet he insists: "The discipline, the structure and the drive that football gives you is a massive advantage.
"When I first started this I was driven. I knew I was under huge time constraints, I knew I was putting myself under a lot more pressure by running my own business, but it was something I wanted to do, so I just made it work."
After surgery in April, things are looking up. Even though the initial injury was sustained in 2013, it was only recently that Flanagan came to terms with the prognosis.
"It was only really six months ago I accepted my football career with club and county was over, and there's a bit of grieving that goes with that I suppose," he explains.
"You have to do that for a little while but then you move on, you find other things. For me, my focus is on business."
Having experienced highs and lows off the field over the past two years, Flanagan points to a similar experience during the 2009 Leinster final.
"It was great to go out to a full house in Croke Park and march beside the Dubs, take them on," he recalls. "But it ended as one of the biggest disappointments in my career because we played very well, bar the first 10 minutes where Dublin punished us with two early goals; we never really caught up.
"We kicked 18 points from play and we matched them in every other aspect."
Flanagan also references the heartbreaking defeats to Down and Donegal in 2010 and 2011 as difficult days on his football journey, but he is now focused on the future and, while he recovers physically, that means business.
"The short-term plan is now to keep growing the business the way I have done over the last three years and see where that takes me," he says.
Fortunately for Flanagan, when injury struck on the field, he had already planned for life off it. There's a lesson in that for all players.