The underdogs tag fuels us – McShea

By Katrina Brennan

THIS time last year Conor McShea wasn’t making Kieran Donnelly’s 26 but fast-forward 12 months and the Enniskillen Gaels player has cemented his place at wing half-forward.

The 27-year-old made his Fermanagh football debut against Tyrone in the Dr McKenna Cup last year but didn’t feature again until the third-round game with Down when he was brought off the bench.

It’s been a journey for McShea. The dual player opted to play football last season having dedicated the previous seven years of his life to intercounty hurling.

He made his Fermanagh senior hurling debut under managers Sean Duffy and Seamus McCusker in 2015 and while he still loves the game, he felt he wanted to make the switch.

“It was definitely hard because you’re leaving the county team where you’re leaving a team full of your clubmates (Lisbellaw) and obviously with dad (Ollie McShea) being assistant manager and your brother playing – it’s all I knew for seven years, but I did want to test myself at the football and really give it a rattle.”

It’s been a steep learning curve for the Enniskillen Gaels player but game-on-game he is showing that he is equally adept at football as he was with the small ball.

As he struggled to break into Donnelly’s team, it might have been easier to go back to hurling, but McShea didn’t take the easy option.

“It’s not enjoyable not being part of the squad on match day. So, you can take it one of two ways, you can give up or you can go back out and train harder the next day.”

McShea opted for the latter and his game has certainly reaped the rewards and he can see that too.

“In terms of what is expected of you; at first when you come in, you might attempt stuff that you’d try in a club game – and that’s not saying the management don’t want you to try stuff or express yourself – but the way we play with Fermanagh, it’s very much as a team; there’s a system in place, you need to know where to be.

“Then my fitness has really improved and (while) I need to get my gym scores up, the work that Leon (Carters) makes us do has brought me on leaps and bounds.”

The last day out against the Lilywhites in Brewster Park, McShea really impressed. He is a player who can read the game well, has real pace, and is an excellent link man between defence and attack, as well as having the ability to chip in with a score.

While he didn’t get on the scoresheet that particular evening, he did come close with a 17th-minute effort coming back off the upright. As a half=forward, McShea says scoring is an area of his game he needs to concentrate on.

“It’s definitely something I need to work on. As a forward you want to be on the scoresheet but ultimately the result is the main thing.

“Had the game (against Kildare) went down to the wire or had we drawn, you’d be kicking yourself,” admitted the KPMG penetration tester. And if you’re wondering what that is, it involves working on cyber security for clients, ensuring their websites are robust and secure.

This weekend, McShea will play his first competitive game against Donegal and he is feeling confident as they prepare to make the trip to Letterkenny, on Saturday.

“We’ll go to Donegal with a great confidence, obviously off the back of two great results now. It’s definitely going to be a step up but we’ve been underdogs in both games and we do like that underdogs tag, it suits us, it definitely gives us fuel to drive on.”

Donegal have two wins on the board already. An Oisin Gallen-inspired one-point win against Cavan the last day out, preceded by a high-scoring 1-20 to 2-6 victory against Cork in Ballybofey in their opener.

McShea knows the Tír Chonaill men pose a huge threat but he’s confident the Erne defence can limit their attack.

“It’s clear the way Jim (McGuinness) wants to play; they want to press you up high, they want to get quick scores.

“Obviously, they did rack up a high score against Cork but defensively we’ve been pretty sound. No goals conceded yet and no points conceded from play against Kildare in the first half. So, defensively we’re very good as a unit and hopefully that will stand to us against Donegal.”

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