No looking back for Flanagan as final nears

Story by Paul Fitzpatrick

Friday, 19th October, 2018 10:49am

No looking back for Flanagan as final nears

Castlerahan captain Ronan Flanagan.

Paul Fitzpatrick

One of the biggest tasks Castlerahan will have this week, one imagines, is to banish memories of previous county final losses. Any mental baggage will need to be checked in at the gate when they enter Kingspan Breffni for a crack at landing the elusive SFC title.

Captain Ronan Flanagan, for one, is only looking in one direction. The hype, the build-up, none of it is new and none of it will be a distraction, he says.

“You do get used to it. It's another game really when you've been there before, we just want to try to get over the line really,” said the former Cavan captain, a teacher at Virginia College.

“We're just focusing on this game. You can't change what has happened in the past, we can only focus on what's coming and what we can do in the next game.”

Castlerahan have been compared to the Mayo senior footballers at times in that they have played in several finals but have yet to get their hands on the cup. In his laid back manner, Flanagan dismisses that analogy out of hand.

“I just don't pass any heed to it. From the Mayo side of things, I actually thought they over-achieved, I don't think they had the forwards to be winning an All-Ireland final.

“They got to the final on a few occasions with a brilliant defence and a very competitive midfield but only maybe two forwards actually doing anything for them. To be fair to them, everyone slates them but I would think they over-achieved.

“With regards to us, the only final I felt we probably should have won was the Kingscourt final, the very first one. I don't think we deserved to win the other two.”

Were their defeats, then, down to poor performances or the wrong tactics?

“I would say it was probably a bit of both,” he admits.

“The Ramor one, we didn't really perform, they were the better team. The Cavan Gaels one, we didn't take our chances and I suppose in the second half we didn't go at them to really win it. We were still playing with a sweeper which didn't help us.”

This season has seen peaks and troughs but for the most part, Donal Keogan's side have been playing well, particularly last time out.

“I would probably say it has been up and down. At times we have felt that we were going well and other times we felt a bit flat. The last day against Lavey in the first half, we were coming back to where we wanted to be.

“But once you're competing and winning, even when you're not at your best, it's a good thing.”

The quarter-finals produced a number of fairly seismic upsets, with each of the last three champions – Cavan Gaels, Ramor United and Kingscourt Stars – all crashing out. On the face of it, that seemed to leave the way clear for Castlerahan but Crosserlough are now threatening to gate-crash their coronation party.

Flanagan admits that his neighbours, while a coming force, did not figure in many conversations from the outset but he has always been congnisant of their ability.

“I didn't really think about it if I'm being totally honest with you. Last year we only beat them by a point, this year they went eight-nil up against us in the league, again it was a very tight game, so we were aware of how good they can be.”

Having lined out in almost every position, Flanagan is now operating at full-forward to great effect and, he says, he is enjoying the change of scenery.

“I like it. When you get moved, it reinvigorates you, it's a new challenge and you want to see how you can get on there, see can you still do it. It doesn't matter where I play, I suppose I like a change every so often.”

Predicting a high-scoring decider (“I've only seen Crosserlough against Ramor and they are well able to play football, they put up a big score that day in an open game so yeah, I think it will be high scoring”), Ronan agreed that the current Castlerahan squad is the best they have assembled around Fay Park yet.

“It probably is to be fair. When you've played for a good few years together, you kind of get used to each other. Oisin's absence might have dented us a little bit but if he was available it definitely would be our strongest panel.”

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