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The busy lifestyle of Sligo's Etna Flanagan

The busy lifestyle of Sligo’s Etna Flanagan
By Darragh Cox of the Sligo Weekender



commitment required by any Gaelic footballer that dreams of playing
at Croke Park is colossal. Having to organise your life around
constant training and matches is hard enough but to attempt this
while taking care of a new-born baby would seem impossible.

Not so for Etna Flanagan, one of the major additions to Kathleen
Kane’s Sligo Ladies Football squad that narrowly missed out on
All-Ireland glory last year. Flanagan carries the distinction
of being the only married member of the current crop of players.
Added to that, she also has the full-time job of looking after
her first child, Cria.

Yet less than 12 months after giving birth, she is preparing for
an All-Ireland final with Sligo and a Connacht final with her
club, St Nathy’s. So how does the Glenfarne native manage it all?

“I have had great support from my husband, Conor, and friends
and neighbours, who have all taken care of Cria for training and
matches. It hasn’t been easy. I started back in January but luckily
I have been able to put in the commitment.”

“I missed out on Croke Park last year and watching the game from
the stands, I knew how desperately I wanted to get back playing.”

Flanagan’s effort is all the more remarkable considering Conor,
who, along with Liam McDonagh, coaches the St Nathy’s team, recently
had to go into hospital for an operation. Remarkably, Flanagan
has looked like the fittest player on the pitch for the last couple
of games, a fact she puts down to the team’s training regime.

“I have never been as fit or as fast in all my life. The coaching
programme we were on meant that we did all the endurance work
at the start of the year to build up our fitness. That was very
difficult but I managed it.”

“The last time I had a weekend without football was probably the
middle of July. Sometimes there has only been six days between
some big games.” “The beginning was tough. The other girls hadn’t
finished playing that long and really they were only topping up
their fitness again. It wasn’t until June that I started coming
into fitness.”

As if she hadn’t enough on her plate, Flanagan also plans to play
rugby in Enniskillen once the football ends but before that her
focus remains exclusively on Croke Park.

Still only 29, Flanagan finds herself as the eldest member of
the squad, but ironically she is one of less experienced members,
having missed last year’s visit to the GAA headquarters. Does
this make her nervous?

“I haven’t really thought about it that much. I wasn’t too nervous
for the Connacht final and hopefully I won’t be too nervous beforehand.
With Conor having surgery and me having the baby, my priorities
have changed slightly and I know that football is not the be all
and end all.” “I was pleased with my performance in the last couple
of games so maybe I am better when I am under a bit of pressure.”

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