Oisin McConville's story of becoming 'captain material' an example to players who aren't seen as leaders
Oisin McConville looks back on his career and, while 2002 obviously stands out, there's no win he values more than the All-Ireland club that he brought back to Crossmaglen in 2007.
He was team captain that year but, as he says himself, that's only part of the reason it meant and means so much to him. McConville tells the story that, for many years, it wouldn't have mattered if Armagh were missing 25 regulars because, as things stood, he still wouldn't have been seen as someone who could captain the team.
He knew why but for a long time, he didn't know how to change that. By 2007 though, McConville was more mature and, having played for the Rangers for 15 years, he was a more rounded individual than ever before. He was asked to captain the team because, having seen the light, he had left his more selfish and egotistical ways behind and management had noticed that.
As he says on The GAA Social podcast with Thomas Niblock, it was the first time he appreciated the work of others around him, wasn't only concerned about himself and was fully invested in the journey. He put everything into it and, when they beat Dr Crokes on St Patrick's day, it was one of the greatest days of his life.
"It felt like a point of redemption for me," said the Crossmaglen man.
"I completely understood (why I wasn't chosen as captain before.)
"The only reason it hurt me was because I was incapable of leading that team, and I had put myself in that situation. That's why 2007 was so important."
We were chatting to the man himself at the launch of the Eirgrid U20 All-Ireland championship today and he explained how, having never been captain material before, he took to the role naturally. It's an example for any players who, for one reason or another, aren't seen as leaders and want to change that perception.
"It (being captain) didn't feel that strange because it felt as though I was changing as an individual. I saw it as an opportunity to change people's and my team-mates' perceptions. There was a bit of work to do in that I was going to be slightly different as a person," he explains.
"Captaincy had two different roles. Leading on the pitch and more especially, what you do off the pitch, so how you are around the guys on the pitch and how you are around the management and how approachable you are.
"That was one of the things I definitely wasn't, for a lot of my earlier career, was approachable, so that was something I worked on. That was the most important thing. It was different, but I was changing as a person with it as well and that's how I did it."
His well-documented gambling struggles were, of course, a contributing factor to why McConville wasn't seen as a suitable person to lead the team and he explained how, off the field, GAA players can struggle just as much if not more than the next person.
"I do think there's an extra layer of responsibility and pressure that they've to face, that other people mightn't have. A lot of the time, it's just general struggles from real life as it was for Richie Power. A lot of the time we put them on a pedestal, that these guys wouldn't have the same struggles we have but they do. And that's why it's powerful when it comes from someone like Richie," McConville said of the Kilkenny hurler, who told the story of his gambling struggles on Tuesday.
"You can land helicopters here, you can build your barracks on top of us, but fuck youse.
"We're going to win an All-Ireland anyway"
He won six with @crossrangers, one with Armagh.
Day 58 without GAA is Oisin McConville appreciation day, an inspiration on and off the field🏐 pic.twitter.com/xhgdRcdYyb
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) May 7, 2020
“When I had to break the news to [my kids] that himself and Sean O’Shea were not on the panel, I mean, they were pretty disappointed, and verging on maybe not going at all,” McConville said when speaking to the media today.
“I genuinely noticed a couple of different bounces going on in the house since Sunday [when he played]. He is a genuine superstar, and is probably in the ilk of Joe Canning. That’s the only person I could think of who draws that enthusiasm.
“He also seems a great lad, given how good he is with kids with his time. To be fair, all of the GAA lads are like that but this guy is inundated with requests and people looking for things done.
“Genuinely, people who were there in Armagh on Sunday were there to see David Clifford. It’s probably a while since we had a player who is universally adored in the way Clifford is. And rightly so, he is different gravy.”