MARK FLANAGAN has moved heaven and earth in an attempt to prove himself in Leinster colours after recovering from a debilitating back injury – but moving house almost forced him back to square one.
And now the imposing second-row is hoping that a return to action can help him challenge for regular first-team action next season.
Flanagan has only made two starts and six appearances as a replacement in four troubled seasons for the province, but he is hoping that his 23-minute stint in last weekend's win against the Scarlets can kick-start his Leinster career.
"I'd a few 'A' games and club games and it was a step-up playing against the Scarlets last weekend," he said.
"I had a bulging disc in my back at the L5 level. The surgeon took 10pc of the disc out to relieve the pressure on the nerve running down my leg.
"My rehab would have been a lot of core work to take the pressure off my back. I was ready to come back, but then aggravated the injury moving house. Lifting in the gym may have also damaged it when I was much younger."
A former Westmeath minor footballer, the 24-year-old is an athletic player who only took up rugby at 16. However, he impressed on duty with various underage sides, including the Ireland U-20s.
A first cousin of fellow Leinster lock and Ireland international Devin Toner, Flanagan will be one of the players coach Joe Schmidt will be relying on to challenge in a position that the reigning Heineken Cup champions are clearly struggling in.