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Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan on his incredible 20-game streak and how he keeps himself fit

At the age of 30, the free-kick king knows his body better than ever as he looks to guide the Kingdom to league success.

Sheehan hopes to conquer Croke Park again this weekend.
Sheehan hopes to conquer Croke Park again this weekend.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN BRYAN SHEEHAN missed the Kindgom’s trip to Monaghan last month, it marked the end of an incredible run of games which saw the Kerry captain play 20 times over the winter period.

From the All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin last September up to the penultimate round of the Allianz Football League in Clones, Sheehan lined out for his club, divisional side and county.

It was a busy, but hugely fruitful winter. He guided South Kerry to a senior county title while also playing a key role in St Mary’s’ run to county, provincial and All-Ireland intermediate honours.

A hand injury sustained in the league win over Mayo gave Sheehan an opportunity to take a break and spend two weeks recovering from the exploits of an intense couple of months.

After missing two games, the 30-year-old quickly returned to come off the bench during Kerry’s crushing win over Roscommon in the semi-final – and now he’s ready for Sunday’s decider against Dublin.

“I had a bit of a problem with my finger,” he explains. “I tore ligaments in the league game against Mayo from the throw-in, but it is good now. I had to give it some down time so this thing wouldn’t come back on me. I gave it two weeks off.

“A lot was made of the 20 games but it was great and enjoyable because you were winning. What made it more special was the fact that it was with the club and there was an All-Ireland series.

Bryan Sheehan Bryan Sheehan was at Croke Park yesterday to preview the Allianz Football League finals weekend. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“But it was probably no harm to give the mind a break, more so than the body. Sometimes going into that team environment and trying to get yourself up mentally for games that can wear you down more than the physical side of it. It was nice to get those two weeks.”

At 30 years of age, Sheehan is currently playing the best football of his career as he flourishes in the engine room having dropped back from the half-forward line.

The five-time All-Ireland winner, who is widely regarded as the most clinical freetaker in the country, has been prominent in Kerry’s run to this weekend’s league final at Croke Park.

“I’m actually looking forward to it and I’m feeling good and why wouldn’t you be? It’s a league final in Croke Park playing Dublin who are the All-Ireland champions who beat us last year in the All-Ireland final. Where else would you rather be?

“If you weren’t in a league final you’d be at home playing club championship, maybe doing heavy training for maybe 11 weeks and there is only so much of that you can do. Here you are playing competitive football and it is massive.”

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It’s over a decade since Sheehan broke into the inter-county team, but what’s the secrets to his recent form?

“It’s one or two things,” he explains. “Number one I’m injury free and I have been unfortunate picking up injuries at the wrong time of the year just coming into the championship.

Bryan Sheehan and Hugh McFadden Sheehan has been in fine form. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“In 2014 I played all the league and I think the quarter-final here against Galway I had a slight problem with my hip flexor coming into the game and it just went and it turned out to be two or three weeks and I missed out on the All-Ireland semi-final and just got back for the final.

“Last year I was grand I missed out on the All-Ireland semi-final and final but for me I’m the kind of fella who needs to play football and I played from last September to Christmas and luckily I didn’t get any injuries and continued on from there into the new year.

“I didn’t go on a team holiday with Kerry, just stayed home and played my football and I think that is what is standing to me. I’m the kind of fella who needs football and improves the more football I play but you need the balance of not picking up injuries and keeping fresh.

“I’m just looking after myself. Recovering well after games. The fact I’m living back home in Cahirciveen means I can go into the sea and let the body loosen out. I’m 30 years of age now and it’s time to listen to the body a bit more.

“I’m lucky enough in that I’m the type of person who when I’m fit I can stay fit. It’s usually when I’m coming back from injury that I pick up another injury or I push myself to hard and something else sets me back.”

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Ryan Bailey

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