McGahan: Decision time looms for Flannery

INJURY-PLAGUED Munster and Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery is reaching a decision point as to his rugby-playing future, his provincial head coach Tony McGahan revealed.

On a day of mixed injury news in the Munster camp ahead of Saturday’s European clash at home to Castres, McGahan was addressing speculation that the 33-year-old Grand Slam-winner and two-time Heineken Cup champion faced an early retirement from the game following two seasons of calf-injury problems.

The Munster director of rugby said a decision would have to come from both medical staff and Flannery about whether he had a future in the game.

“He’s been training with us but there are certain protocols to go through and certain areas Jerry needs to get back up to, not only for the medical staff but for Jerry too,” McGahan said.

“He has had an horrendous two years with injury, so we’re hoping he makes the decision and continues to play.”

Without a precise diagnosis of his calf problem, the unenviable limbo Flannery has found himself in has complicated the situation and left the 33-year-old grappling for fitness on a week-to-week basis.

“That’s the injury and that’s the worrying concern for Jerry, where he’s at: Whether he feels in himself that he can continue with the setbacks he’s had. He needs to feel there’s an improvement and whether there’s a long-term ability to go forward with the injury. We’re just waiting for those two things to come together for Jerry, there’s a physical as well as a mental aspect to it for him to come back. Club rugby would be his first port of call to be reintroduced to rugby, with the length of time he’s been out. There’s no exact timeframe but he has been training with us for the last two weeks, he’s been accomplishing a lot at training and is on the pathway to getting back.”

Despite an injury-ravaged campaign for the province that has seen David Wallace, Felix Jones, Mike Sherry and Denis Leamy join Flannery on the treatment table, McGahan was able to name a fully-fit 28-man squad for the weekend’s Thomond Park pool clash with Castres that included openside flanker Niall Ronan, deemed fit after recovering from a knee injury suffered last Saturday against Treviso. And while Wallace, the man Ronan has so capably replaced at No. 7 this season, is still on course for a return from his knee injury at the beginning of March, there was encouraging news for Munster fans that full-back Felix Jones would be back training in three weeks and could be available for selection in five weeks for the RaboDirect Pro12 trip to Italian side Aironi on February 12.

Decision time looms for Munster's Flannery

AS for Leamy, ruled out for four months with a hip injury that willrequire surgery “in the next week or so”, McGahan discounted fears the 30-year-old back rower had acareer-threatening problem.

“Possibly before the diagnosis there was a fear it could be a long-terminjury, but I think there has been a lot of clarity after seeing the specialist last week and there is a specific part (of the hip) that can be fixed and then he can move on and from that perspective it is positive news for Denis and the club.”

McGahan spoke of his sympathy for Leamy, whom he dropped from his Heineken Cup starting line-up but then saw the Ireland star make telling contributions off the bench in the four Pool 1 victories to date.

“It has been really disappointing, especially so for the player but also for us here at Munster.

“Denis had his first proper pre-season in my memory for such a long period of time and I think you saw the benefits of that, the way he played and the way he started lastseason and then he gets a couple of injuries and goes down a bit and then he gets another injury and gets put on the back burner.

“Now he’s compromised againleading into the Six Nations, where he’s so keen to play.

“His work off the bench has been terrific so I’m so disappointed for him now, with where we are at Munster, and the opportunities where presented to him and now he is going to miss another Six Nations.”

Munster Squad for Heineken Cup Pool 1, Round 5 game v Castres:

Forwards: M Horan, J Ryan, W Du Preez, BJ Botha, S Archer, D Varley, D Fogarty, D Ryan, P O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, I Nagle, P O’Mahony, B Holland, N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Backs: C Murray, T O’Leary, D Williams, R O’Gara, I Keatley, D Barnes, W Chambers, S Zebo, L Mafi, Denis Hurley, J Murphy, K Earls.

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