With Gaelic Games in lockdown indefinitely due to the coronavirus, Sunday Life Sport has introduced a new series with Armagh's All-Ireland winner and Crossmaglen legend Oisin McConville chatting with 11 of the biggest names in the sport.
Under the spotlight this week is Tyrone's Darren McCurry, who had been in and out of Mickey Harte's team for the last seven or eight years. But having worked hard to nail down a spot in the Tyrone team, he is one of the in-form players in Ireland.
Oisin: How is the current situation affecting you in relation to work and family?
Darren: Work-wise, I’m a plumber, so I’m finished up with work now because all sites are closed. It’s a family business — myself, my brother and my dad.
It’s a tough time, bills still have to be paid and vans still have to be paid, so it’s not simple, but the safety of the workers and obviously the family and health has to come first. It’s a tough time, but I’m confident that we will get through it.
It’s been difficult for sure. I’m living at home with my father and my sister. I haven’t been able to see my granny as she has been in isolation for three weeks, nor have I seen my girlfriend, who I’ve been with for 10 years now. That’s been particularly challenging and will continue to be.
Oisin: How are you keeping fit during this crisis considering we are in lockdown mode — no group training sessions, no gyms open and we are restricted to one walk, cycle or run away from your house a day?
Darren: I’ve set up a gym in my yard and I’ve everything I need in it — I’ve a stationary bike, a rowing machine, weights and I bought a mountain bike.
My schedule is to do two sessions per day and that’s what I’ve done for the last week.
It’s either an outdoor session, which is running or shooting, and then one gym session, so in actual fact I’ve probably trained harder than I ever have.
I don’t like sitting in the house watching telly, so the plan is to get fitter and stronger. The shooting is a massive thing for me too. It’s definitely not easy to train on your own, you have to be very mentally strong. I did a session yesterday and it was brutal, to say the least. Halfway through it I was questioning myself, but I found a few things to motivate me and keep me going, like when people said I couldn’t do it or the times I didn’t start games. Those things keep me going big-time. It’s more a mental battle than a physical one to get the sessions done on your own.
Oisin: You are probably one of the top players in the game right now, but what have you missed most about football?
Darren: I miss the lads, the team morale, being up at the Garvaghey training centre and the routine and structure of that environment. Then there is the competitiveness of the games.
Personally, I felt like I was flying and I was enjoying it and that is very important for me because when I’m enjoying it my confidence is sky-high and I’m a hard man to stop.
I’m missing the craic up there and I’m missing not being at training. We are full of confidence after beating Dublin and were looking forward to the Donegal game. Our aim was to make the League Final and that doesn’t look as if it will even happen now.
Missing all those small things really adds up. It’s only when you don’t have it that you realise how big a part of life Gaelic football really is. It’s all out of our control and that’s frustrating.
Oisin: Getting away from the current situation, what has been your biggest challenge in football?
Darren: That’s a tough one. Well, the commitment is so extreme to compete at the highest level. The work that has to be done to challenge for a place is unbelievable. I mean, it’s basically every night with one night off maybe. So I suppose the challenge for me is to fit that in around my day job. I’m up in the morning at 5.45am and when I get home I’m straight out the door to training again, so that has been hard to manage.
I’m on-site all day and going from the site to then do a gym session is tough. You need to be on top of everything and your diet needs to be in sync with everything else.
The training load has been difficult and the time you lose out being with your family, they are the sacrifices that have to be made. Unless you are in that bubble, you can’t really understand what it takes. As far as the step up from club, though, I felt that wasn’t an issue at all. Another challenge for me as a forward was the mass defences. It was hard for a forward like me to express myself, but with football opening back up a bit, I’ve been really helped by that.
Oisin: With all that in mind, is it high time inter-county players were paid?
Darren: Haha, the money question. Inter-county players definitely deserve something. When you are sacrificing that much of your life for sport, all those hours spent trying to improve, there needs to be something more for the players.
Oisin: If we are looking at knock-out Championship football, does this help Tyrone in their bid to land the Sam Maguire?
Darren: I don’t think that makes a difference. We always take each game as it comes. When we set out every year, our main aim is to win an All-Ireland. The belief is always there. We just look at our changing room and when I look round those faces I know every one of them believes that too. We want to do Tyrone proud, simple as that.