“If you can’t win your own ball, you’re at nothing really” – Seamus Flanagan on making it as a forward
Sports.JOE NIALL MCINTYRE
Seamus Flanagan is just mad to get back hurling.
After visiting every school in Limerick, after all the partying and after a team holiday too, the celebrations and indeed 2018 are in the rear view mirror now and what lies ahead is mucky fields and lifting weights.
And Seamus Flanagan wouldn’t want it any other way.
“We’ve been around with the cup to the schools and hospitals and stuff like that and while that’s enjoyable at the start, by the end of it, I was just looking forward to just getting back into the frame of mind that the championship and league are only around the corner,” he said to us at the launch of the Electric Ireland Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups.
An unknown quantity outside of the Treaty County at the start of 2018, by the end of it there wasn’t a hurling person in the country that didn’t know who Limerick’s corner forward with the yellow helmet was.
A big Fitzgibbon Cup with UCD got him going, a breakthrough National League campaign with Limerick kept him motoring and in the championship he just took off.
He left defenders the length and breadth of Munster for dead with his speed but the most standout aspect of his game was his ability to win his own ball and then his strength to horse defenders out of his way once he won it.
A winter spent working hard in the gym was crucial to adding that physicality to his game.
“That’s where your gym work comes into it, your bulking up phase over the winter, and trying to get ready for those hits. And it’s not even trying to give out those hits, it’s trying to take them and stay injury-free throughout the season because it is such a long season, you don’t want to be getting any serious injuries and that’s where your gym work comes in.
But yeah, it’s (physicality) a big part of my game, I like to lay my mark. In that Galway game, that’s probably where I laid my mark and kicked on from there.”
There’s not a man in the Limerick forward line who can’t win their own ball and that was a key part in their All-Ireland victory this year. Flanagan became an expert at it throughout the year.
“It’s huge. If you can’t win your own ball, you’re depending on secondary ball and breaking ball and as a forward, that’s not what you want to be doing. You want to be able to win your own ball and if you’re relying on breaking ball, that’s not always going to go your way and next thing, you’re on the sideline and someone else is coming in and that’s the way it went. So if you can’t win your own ball, you’re at nothing really.”
“Primary possession is everything, and once you have that, you can decide what you want to do, if you want to pop, if you want to score, if you want to lay-off, but once you have primary possession, you’re in total control of the situation and that is crucial for hurling and whatever sport you’re playing, it’s huge. We have a towering half-forward line that can win ball when Nickie [Quaid] is putting it down on top of them and we’ve a full-forward line that can win our own ball as well so that’s definitely once massive, massive facet to our game.
Constant, varied movement is a key to dragging defenders all over the shop and making space for yourself.
“You saw, for most of the All Ireland final, I was out in the half-forward line and in between that half-forward and full-forward line. It’s very hard for a full-back to mark you when you’re in between those two lines because he doesn’t know whether to follow or whether to stay back. Again, it’s just sole work rate.”
“Our game plan, people say our game plan is easy to read, how do you read work rate? You can’t plan for work rate and the only thing that a team can do is out-work us and no one is going to out-work us because, as much as someone else works, we’re going to work 10 times harder, off the ball, on the ball, hooking, blocking, chasing down that ball, it’s just going to be massive work rate. You can’t out-work us because we’re going to out-work anyone that we play.
And that’s the plan next year again.
“You can plan all you want for us, mark us, drop a sweeper, drop two sweepers, but once we work harder than you, we’re going to beat you, we’re going to get those hooks, get those blocks, get those scores and I don’t know how you can plan against that.”
There’s no danger of Limerick getting carried away with just the one All-Ireland. Flanagan wants more.