Derry Minor Captain Padraig McGrogan is having a great season, leading his county team to Ulster success in the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Championships.
We spoke to Padraig in the run up to his team’s All-Ireland Minor semi-final against Dublin to hear his thoughts on how major it is to play at Minor level...
Having won the minor league many predicted Tyrone to win the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship – what was it like to beat them in front of a home crowd in Celtic Park?
Every championship win is special but beating our biggest rivals was something else. The fact that they had beaten us in the league final gave us a lot of motivation and really provided us with the drive we needed to beat them. Our supporters were great that day, they easily could’ve given up on us at half time after a poor first half performance but they stuck with us and really helped us see the game out.
This year Electric Ireland have launched the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards to recognise the skill and talent displayed in this year’s championship. What do you think the inclusion of these Awards have meant to those playing in the Minor Championship this year?
I think the Awards are a great addition to the championship as they reward players for doing what they do best. I was delighted with being nominated for the Awards as Player of the Week and even more excited about getting nominated for it based on an Ulster final performance.
What does it say about how important Minor football is in the GAA to have major figures like Oisín McConville and Dónal Og Cusack involved with the selection of the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards?
It really shows the worth and value of the awards as they are being selected by two GAA greats. Minor is a very important age group in the GAA as it can be the make or break of an individual’s career. Most minor footballers and hurlers grow up hoping that one day they’ll be half as good as Oisín McConville or Dónal Og Cusack.
Many of your players were involved in last year’s heartbreak in the Ulster final – has that been a big motivator this year?
Yes and no: we obviously used this as a source of motivation during this year’s Ulster campaign however the majority of the squad is new and it’s hard for them to feel the heartbreak as they did not experience it – thankfully striving to win an Ulster Championship was enough motivation for this group.
Name one player whose team is no longer in the championship who has really impressed you?
Red Og Murphy from Sligo was extremely impressive. He probably stood out the most for me because he had everything you’d want in a full forward, raw talent, pace, power and deadly finishing.
What has been your most major moment as a Minor player this year?
Winning the Ulster Minor Championship and lifting the Liam Murray Cup has undoubtedly been my most major moment as a minor player this year.
What is the most difficult thing about training and playing at Minor inter-county?
The most difficult thing about training and playing at Minor inter-county would be the fact that there is minimal room for error as every team you come up against will capitalise on it. This is especially difficult whenever the intensity and physicality is so high and it’s only when you’re playing do you realise how drained you get from doing the things that might look easy from the side line and the crowd.
With the crowds, the atmosphere, the colour and excitement there’s nothing minor about playing Minor. Tell us how you felt when you saw and heard the championship crowd back in May?
There’s no crowd like the championship crowd, they definitely keep you on your toes throughout a game but it’s definitely a deadly experience. I would say that the crowd at the Sligo game was the best yet, when we really needed something to drive us on they were cheering us on at every move and I feel it really helped us get the victory.
So finally, Mums tend to play an integral role in preparation for games and training. How major is your own mum’s role and how important is her influence on your Minor year?
I don’t like to admit it but like most players I know, I am spoilt. Meal times are changed to suit training, gear is washed 2-3 times a week, breakfast is made before every game and I'd say it wouldn’t be easy putting up with the bad moods. Having two other brothers in my house who need the same attention I don’t know how she does it! To put it lightly I'd have to say her influence has been very important throughout my minor year.
Electric Ireland understand that ‘there is nothing minor about playing Minor’ and that for the players ‘This Is Major’.
In celebration of the minor’s skill and commitment, Electric Ireland has launched the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards.
The awards will recognise the brightest stars of the football and hurling championships. To get involved and vote for you Player of the Week, visit the Electric Ireland Facebook page.