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Oisin McConville: 'It's difficult going to watch matches knowing you won't be involved'

The former Armagh player also suggests he is relishing life as a pundit for The Sunday Game.

McConville picture after his final game for Crossmaglen.
McConville picture after his final game for Crossmaglen.

RETIREMENT WAS NEVER going to be easy for a devoted GAA man such as Oisin McConville, but the player seems to have managed the transition as well as possible in recent months.

While McConville admits it has been “difficult,” he has spent a long time consciously preparing to hang up his playing boots.

And although he may no longer play GAA competitively, he remains as eager as ever to continue to soak up knowledge about the game’s various intricacies.

“When you quit county football I suppose that’s the big thing, walking up the hill to Clones and stuff like that, you get a feel for what the supporters are feeling and stuff like that,” he says. “To be honest, it’s good to get an insight into it sometimes. You meet a lot of very educated football people walking up the hill to Clones or on the way to Breffni Park or into the Athletic Grounds or whatever, so I found the adjustment fairly easy in that I gave up county football at the end of ’08 and I still played a bit of club football.

“I kept my toe in for a while and came down gently. I suppose, now that I’m completely finished with it, it is difficult. It’s difficult going to watch matches knowing you’re not going to be involved in any way now, but I’ve found the adjustment so far so good.”

He explains that as far as retirements go, his could not have been much more protracted: “I wanted to quit the year before I quit so the fact that I went and had another year, I sort of was ready then. I was 100% ready to give it up.”

Even though he will always miss the excitement of playing in a big game, McConville says there are some aspects of the sport that he has been glad to leave behind.

“I don’t mind not going training, especially in the winter end of things. I’m still doing a bit of training on my own and am enjoying that but enjoying it for the the fact that you’re not training towards anything. There’s not a gruelling game coming up at the weekend and stuff like that.”

Now that he’s retired, McConville is working as an RTE Sunday Game pundit – a challenge that he indicates he is relishing.

“Obviously you have a feel for the game. I think the second thing is that you know how much individuals are putting in. I will always err on the side of caution in that I wouldn’t necessarily pick out individual players and give them a lot of stick because I know exactly what they’re putting in week in, week out.”

McConville, who admits he was an avid reader of the sports pages of newspapers during his career, also warns managers and players not to be overly sensitive about whatever remarks he makes.

“As far as punditry goes, it’s only my opinion. I don’t take it too seriously. It’s my opinion. It’s what I firmly believe. If I think something I’ll say it and I’ll say it out loud and if people like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. I’m not particularly bothered. As I say, I won’t get personal about any individual but if somebody’s not playing well, a team’s not playing well, I like to see football played well and I’ll say it.

“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. You go on. You use it in whatever way you can but I never really took it that seriously.”

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