Flanagan keen to enjoy big occasion

PAUL FLANAGAN has been busying himself with hurling duties in recent months, but last Monday week offered a diversion for the Clare minor captain.

The issuing of the CAO offers was the most significant item of the day for Flanagan who sat his Leaving Cert in St Flannan’s College in Ennis in June.

Technical glitches with the CAO website ensured it was not easy to access information but eventually Flanagan gleaned what he needed to know.

His place studying PE Teaching in UL was secured and he’ll start that course later this month. But education matters can wait for now as Flanagan gears up for Sunday’s ESB All-Ireland MHC decider against Kilkenny in Croke Park.

“It was great to get the course but I’m just looking at the hurling now,’’ Flanagan said.

“It’s a massive game and a big occasion for everyone, for their families and clubs most of all. These occasions don’t come around too often for Clare hurling so you have to enjoy them. The U21 last year was a brilliant day for the county. I don’t really remember much of the 1995 and 1997 wins, so last year was special to be in Croke Park and see a Clare All-Ireland win. It was fantastic for those players and inspired us this year.”

Clare’s season got off to an inauspicious start against Waterford in the opening round but their rate of improvement has been remarkable since then.

“We didn’t have the best of starts this year in losing to Waterford early on in Munster,” admits Flanagan. “Thankfully things came right after that. We sat down and knew we’d a lot of improving to do. We did that game by game. Once you get momentum going, things can start to roll well for you.

“The Dublin game was a huge win in the semi-final. We’ve the Croke Park nerves out of our system now as well after playing there.”

For Flanagan’s club Ballyea, Sunday is a significant milestone as it supplies three players to the Clare minor hurling effort. Tony Kelly will line out at midfield while Cathal Doohan is amongst the substitutes.

The club burst to prominence in recent seasons courtesy of the senior exploits of Tony Griffin who Flanagan cites as a major influence.

“It’s a huge thing for our parish to have three players, as it’s a very small club. We’re very honoured to be representing the club at Croke Park.

“Tony Griffin’s a guy we’d all have looked up to and he’s a big role model for us minors. He won an All Star award, something no one from the parish had ever managed, in 2002 so that shows what sort of a player he is.

“We’re now playing with him for the Ballyea senior hurlers and he’s a big figure in our dressing-room. Not just for his hurling but any man who cycles 7,000 miles across Canada, you’d have huge respect for.”

Photo: Flanagan with Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley. Picture: SPORTSFILE


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