FORMER Ireland rugby international Jerry Flannery has joined Premier League giants Arsenal on a work placement as a strength and conditioning coach.
The ex-Munster hooker becomes the latest top-class sports star to cross codes and take a coaching role in another sport. He started his new role with the north London club's Academy yesterday.
A long-standing calf injury forced the 34-year-old to retire from playing last year. A key member of Ireland's Grand Slam-winning team in 2009, the last game of his 41-cap career came against the United States at the 2011 World Cup.
He went on to study for a masters in sports performance at the University of Limerick, which he completed in December and, although he has a number of business interests – including a pub in his native Limerick – and is a rugby analyst on TG4, he now has an opportunity to put his academic training into practice with the Gunners.
Flannery spent some time at Arsenal during his rehabilitation from an injury while playing and adds to the large Irish contingent behind the scenes at the Emirates.
He will be working under former Connacht strength and conditioning coach and IRFU fitness education manager Des Ryan, who is the Academy's head of sports medicine and athletic development.
Former Irish rugby team doctor Gary O'Driscoll is the club's doctor, while ex-Ulster and Ireland physiotherapist Simon Harland is employed by the club, along with Gerry Peyton, who is goalkeeping coach.
Liam Brady heads up the Academy where ex-underage international Kwame Ampadu is a coach.
By crossing codes on retirement, Flannery follows a host of recent sportspeople who have gone into different sports as coaches or gurus.
Dublin footballer Brian Cullen works with Leinster Rugby's Academy, his team-mate Philly McMahon is a strength and conditioning coach at Shamrock Rovers, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness works as a performance consultant for Celtic and former world champion boxer Bernard Dunne works with the Dublin team.
The addition of Arsenal to his CV will do Flannery no harm as he begins his new career and the IRFU will be sure to follow his progress closely.