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Flanagan keeps the faith

Sport

ON THE BALL Matthew Flanagan is pictured playing for the Mayo Juniors against Roscommon in the Connacht Junior championship last year. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Interview

Mike Finnerty

‘FASCINATING’ is the word that springs to mind as our conversation with Matthew Flanagan comes to an end.
He’s known to most of us as the goalkeeper from Balla who moonlights in his club’s forwardline from time to time, and won All-Ireland Minor and Under-21 championship medals with Mayo in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
He also plays soccer with Manulla, and is regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Mayo Super League.
But there is so much more to the 23 year-old Quantity Surveying student at GMIT than meets the eye; that much becomes apparent quickly when he begins to talk about the art and craft of his specialist position.
Flanagan lined out in goal for the Mayo Juniors in their recent Connacht semi-final win over Leitrim, but looks set to miss next Sunday’s decider against Galway due to a broken rib that he sustained during Manulla’s recent TP Brennan Connacht Cup Final defeat to Corrib Rangers.
He admits that next weekend’s GAA match was one of the first things that flashed through his mind when he realised he had done some damage after colliding with an opponent just over two weeks ago.
“I was depressed about missing the Connacht Final, to be honest,” Flanagan told The Mayo News.
“Because it’s a great honour to play in any final, in any sport.
“For me, it’s not about the actual medals, it’s about being able to say that you won that competition. To actually have that achievement and to be able to tick it off the list.
“And a Connacht Final means a lot, especially when you’re wearing a Mayo jersey. Any time you wear any Mayo jersey, it’s a huge honour.
“The fact that the Junior Final is being played in Salthill before the Senior Final next Sunday wouldn’t make it any more or less important to me.
“I’d play it in the back garden if I had to because it’s a final and it’s against Galway. That should be all the motivation you need. If you’re worried about where it’s being played, or things like that, then you’re not concentrating on the right things.”
Concentration is something that Matthew Flanagan takes very seriously when it comes to goalkeeping.
In fact, he believes that ‘concentration and communication are the two most important aspects of goalkeeping’.
“I’d have a headache after a match from concentrating and staying focussed, because it doesn’t come easy to me,” he explained.
“I find when I play outfield you just go with the flow, but when you’re in goal you have to keep busy as there are long periods when you’re not involved in the play.”
An avid Manchester Utd fan, and a big admirer of David De Gea, Flanagan says he watches more soccer matches than Gaelic football games on TV.
But that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t like to play senior football for Mayo one day.
“I’d love to,” he says when we ask the question.
“To be honest, I don’t think that was going to happen while we were playing Junior championship with Balla, the standard just wasn’t high enough.
“But we’re up in Intermediate now, we won our first championship game, and if I’m playing well enough, and consistently enough, then I’d hope to get an opportunity.”
But first there is the small matter of next Sunday’s Connacht Junior Final, the latest milestone in a goalkeeping career that started when Mayo GAA coach, Martin Costello, stuck a promising young full-back from Balla into goals for the West Mayo Under-14s. The rest is history.
“Jarlath Trench always tells us that we’re representing our clubs when we come to training with the Juniors, and I think that’s a great way of motivating lads.
“Martin Trench does most of the training and it’s very good, and everyone really enjoys the sessions and enjoys being involved.
“Since the Leitrim game training has become really competitive and that has brought an extra edge to the panel too, which is great.
“Lads want to be involved for the Connacht Final, and that’s the way it should be.”