Tuesday 19 November 2019

Defence to attack all in a day's work for Faithful star Flannery

Siobhán Flannery of Offaly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Siobhán Flannery of Offaly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

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 is required of a professional with regard to fitness, strength, conditioning, technique and skills and combining it with a 'real' job.

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 Siobhán Flannery. She has established herself among the camogie hierarchy since breaking through as a 16-year-old with Offaly in 2007, taking on many roles but largely controlling games from midfield or especially centre-back.

Today, Offaly host Tipperary in Birr with a place in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland quarter-finals up for grabs.

Last 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.

At base, she leads a team of technicians responsible for the radio technology and other equipment on the ground.

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"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."

Traits She had never thought of the traits from her job 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 works with the sport too."

The St Rynagh's star has been deployed in a different position at full-forward 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 WGPA 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."

She is optimistic that the introduction of a host of young players by Paddy Kirwan might spark big things for Offaly, 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 as table-toppers, the remaining four are in contention for the two quarter-final spots.

"We've been in a number of quarter-finals in the last few years. Our aim at the start of the year would have been to push beyond that but we have to get there first and Tipperary are not going to be any easy task."

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