Shooting star Sheehan content as middle man

ALL-IRELAND SFC QUARTER-FINAL:

Shooting star Sheehan content as middle man

Sometimes, GAA players can also come across just that bit too bashful in interviews, reluctant to give too much away. Kerry’s Bryan Sheehan is not arrogant, but it’s refreshing that, when talking about the wonder free from the left sideline on the 13m line against Cork, he puts it down to time and effort.

The St Mary’s man’s place-kicking has few, if any, equals but it is a skill which has had to honed.

“I practise them, it’s not as if I just threw a leg at it,” he said.

“If I’m practising frees, I practise them from both sides. If I kicked 10 of those, I’d be hoping to kick seven or eight, to be honest. Sometimes they go over, other times they don’t.

“I practise frees from 45 yards, I practise frees from 13 yards, I practise frees from 50 yards. Though, the last year or two, because of injuries, I’ve probably had to curtail the amount of kicking I do.

“Training has gone to a different level. Back in ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08 you’d stay back after training and kick a few balls whereas now you’re knackered afterwards, you’re risking pulling something.

“I’d do it at the weekends, and a bit more on the week of a game.”

Sheehan’s midfield performance alongside Anthony Maher, with Johnny Buckley dropping from half-forward, was a key plank of the 12-point Munster final win and he is delighted to be back. An All Star at midfield two years ago, he had to throw his hat in last year as one injury followed another.

“I had a torrid year,” he said.

“I had an operation on my ankle at Christmas, came back in the McGrath Cup and hurt it again, came back then during the league and tore my calf muscle, I was out for eight weeks with that.

“I got tendinitis in my Achilles tendon and then tore my Achilles tendon so it was a write-off, I couldn’t get fit and I couldn’t train. I think I made it back training about a week before the Dublin game [All-Ireland semi-final], a game of that intensity would have been too much.”

That he is now stationed in the middle is an added bonus. While he has filled numerous different green and gold shirts (and the gold and green number 1 at minor level), it is at eight or nine that he feels most comfortable.

“Growing up all along, U14, U16, minor, I was always a midfielder,” he said.

“In goal was just something that happened for [club] the senior team, I was tall, I was able to kick off the ground, ‘Into goal, you’ll do fine’, things snowballed from there.

“Out the field was where I always played and at my own level it was always midfield. When I came in with Kerry, Darragh was there, Donal Daly, [William] Kirby, Séamus Scanlon came in, [Kieran] Donaghy came in, Mike Quirke, so it was a hard place to break into.

“I think maturity helped an awful lot. It takes a long time to get used it, working up and down, the hits, competing in the air.

“Going back to 2004, I was midfield with South Kerry when we won the county, bar the final when they put me wing-forward and I wasn’t too happy with that! I played there in Sigerson with Cork IT, it’s where I’m most comfortable. If you work hard enough, you’ll get on enough ball and it suits me to come from deep. Sometimes, if you’re playing inside you’re reliant on other fellas to give you the ball.”

Midfield is a trade which can only be learned through experience, the 28-year-old believes.

“At 22, I was very naive. You learn an awful lot from playing alongside the likes of Darragh Ó Sé, you pick up tricks as you go along.

“You learn how to look after your body, when to go hard and when you need to hold back and things like that. I would honestly say that 26, 27, 28 is the prime, when I’ve been playing my best football.”

The quantity surveyor wants to continue that for another three games this year, but he’s well aware of the banana skin Galway present tomorrow.

“You look back at 2010 [against Down],” he said, “we probably didn’t prepare for that game like we usually would, we were missing Tomás [Ó Sé] and Paul [Galvin] but we just didn’t prepare and we learned a big lesson from that.

“The gap between teams is closing. Tipp gave Cork a serious fright, people said we were bad against Clare but they nearly beat Kildare. You can’t disrespect teams, they’re all going to be to a certain level of fitness, when you get to Croke Park it’s probably going to be on a par, then it comes down to footballing ability or tactical awareness or how you set up. I’m certainly not looking beyond the weekend.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up