When Oisin McConville was invited to the Canal Court Hotel in Newry for a meal on Saturday night, he little dreamt that he was embarking on one of the most memorable occasions of his life.
It was while engaged in quiet conversation that the 36-year-old Armagh and Crossmaglen Rangers star was suddenly confronted by former Abbey CBS teacher Aidan O’Rourke who, re-living the spirit of Eamon Andrews, presented him with the red ‘This Is Your Life’ book.
And a matter of minutes later a stunned Oisin found himself a few miles away at the Carrickdale Hotel where around 600 people had assembled to pay tribute to his many achievements both on and off the field.
I was among the crowd and was delighted to get the opportunity to say my few words in tribute to Oisin.
As someone who was his manager with Crossmaglen Rangers and Armagh, I saw at first hand his utter dedication, loyalty and sheer consistency.
He was a delight to work with, a player whose scoring achievements have helped to thrust him up among the ranks of the immortals.
Seven Ulster Championship medals, a National League honour and an All-Ireland medal as well as two Allstar awards form his impressive treasure trove from a distinguished career in an Armagh jersey.
This is embellished by 15 Armagh championship medals, nine Ulster club gongs and six All-Ireland club accolades with Crossmaglen in a career that spanned nearly two decades.
Little wonder, then, that the tributes flowed from a procession of high-profile present and former players, officials, media personnel, managers, friends and family on an occasion which, while enveloped in nostalgia, nonetheless still hinted that the passage of time has not diluted Oisin’s enthusiasm for competitive action.
Ex-Kerry aces Seamus Moynihan and Liam Hassett, Down cult figures Paddy Doherty and Sean O’Neill, current Westmeath star Dessie Dolan, former Tyrone players Peter Canavan and Colin Holmes, ex-Armagh goalkeeper Benny Tierney, Donegal’s Brendan Devaney and 2002 Orchard County All Ireland winning captain Kieran McGeeney were among the litany of stars who hailed Oisin’s achievements with obvious sincerity on what was a truly memorable night.