Relax and chill a little, that’s the advice to the inter-county players from double All Star and multiple All-Ireland winner Óisín McConville.
Rather than running from the blanket coverage of the big GAA games these days, embrace it.
Take newspapers for example. Most current top players will tell you they don’t bother to read about themselves or their team – not Óisín: “I always read them and I read them all, any paper I could get my hands on.”
Good game or bad, didn’t matter.
“If I knew I had a good game I’d read all the papers but if I had a bad game I’d still read them. You use that and you take it on for the next day. You say to yourself, ‘What these boys are writing is true’ because as a player, you know when you’ve played well, you know when it hasn’t been up to standard and there are plenty of occasions when it wasn’t. You read it all, you suck it in and you take it out the next day.”
For county managers, Óisín has a similar message. Ease up, relax the demands on players, allow them back to play with their clubs not just for championship games but for the league. With only a week to go to their preliminary round Ulster championship clash against Cavan on Sunday next, that’s what new Armagh manager Paul Grimley has just done.
“Armagh decided they were going to let all of their players play [for their clubs] in the league, anybody who’s not injured or carrying any niggles.
“We hear a lot about burnout but that’s burnout due to training, not due to playing games. The more games these boys play the better, the sharper they get. There’s a lot of boys who for a lot of years who sat on subs’ benches with county teams and played four or five games a year and trained for 10 months which is absolutely crazy.”
It was something Óisín himself missed in his own playing days from 1994 to 2008.
“I could count on one hand how many league games I played for the club in any particular year. It’s a new thing. I think Paul’s looked at the last couple of years and said these boys haven’t played enough football, haven’t been sharp enough.
“As to whether it happens again, a lot will depend on what happens, whether they pick up injuries but I say let them play because the best practice you can get is playing football. It’s ridiculous the amount of training we do in comparison to the amount of games we have in Gaelic football so from that point of view I’m all for it.”
While Óisín’s sympathy will always be with those on the pitch, his new role working for RTÉ means there will be no conflict of interest, no effort to shy away from making the hard calls.
“I will always err on the side of caution but as far as punditry goes, it’s only my opinion. If I think something I’ll say it and I’ll say it out loud. If people like it, they like it, if they don’t, they don’t. I’m not bothered.”
“You see a lot of managers taking certain stuff to heart. As a player I never did that. If someone gives you a bit of stick you take it on the chin.”
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