Tuesday 6 December 2016

Fenton admits having fears of 'second-season syndrome'

Published 29/10/2016 | 02:30

Fenton will discover on Friday whether he is the 2016 Footballer of the Year. And he admits he used to joke that he would be in the running for the gong. Photo: Sportsfile
Fenton will discover on Friday whether he is the 2016 Footballer of the Year. And he admits he used to joke that he would be in the running for the gong. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Fenton is certain to pick up his second All-Star in as many seasons as a senior footballer and he is tipped to win the Footballer of the Year gong later this year but the big Raheny man admits he stepped into the 2016 campaign with a certain amount of trepidation.

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His reasoning was simple. Having seen so much go right for him in his debut campaign in 2015, he reckoned he couldn't live up to those standards. And besides, opponents would know much more about his game and how to go about limiting his influence.

"I came in under the radar so much last year," he said. "I'd meet people in the club and people who would know football and they'd say, 'You came in last year under the radar, nobody knew you but this year you are going to be a marked man, people are going to know you, they are going to have watched your clips on tape'.

"I knew that and that was a big fear of mine," he admitted. "Having that extra attention, maybe not getting as many possessions or as many kick-passes or scores in a game or being dominated by an opponent. It's very clichéd but you just take every game as it comes - you study your opponent and I suppose I was lucky that I just seemed to get on ball and things were going my way."

Injury meant his year started late. He was handed his first start against Cork but didn't reappear for the second half. On reflection, it was the best thing that could have happened to him.

"I was having an absolute stinker to be honest," he recalled. "That was definitely a wake-up call - that I needed to get my sharpness up and my fitness up after the surgery. I knew then that if I wanted this year to be in any way as good as last year then I needed to pull off my socks as they say.

"So yeah that fear was always there going into this year but thankfully it went the right way."

Fenton will discover on Friday whether he is the 2016 Footballer of the Year. And he admits he used to joke that he would be in the running for the gong.

"I think I've run out of words to describe it. It's absolutely crazy. I remember last year talking with close friends around the club in Raheny.

"They'd be saying, 'Things couldn't have gone better for you in 2015'. I used to turn around jokingly say, 'Ah sure, look I'll push for Player of the Year next year'.

"That was just so many miles off my radar that I'd joke about it. It wasn't a realistic option to me at all.

"In that Dublin team, and all around the country, there are players that are more skilful, better players who can kick better scores than I can.

"So, on a personal level, I'm honoured to be even nominated alongside the likes of Ciarán (Kilkenny), who is a spectacular footballer, and Lee (Keegan), who is probably one of the best footballers Mayo ever produced. He'd get into any half-back line in any team. So, I'm really honoured to be nominated.

"It was another dream year and still looking back on it, I don't know if it has fully sank in at all - both the success we've had as a team this year and probably the success personally I've had over the last two years.

"When I look back on the year, it couldn't really have gone any better to be honest.

"Maybe we didn't perform at 100 per cent throughout the year but to win the All-Ireland for the second year in a row is something special."

Fenton was named as the Gaelic Writers' Association personality of the year for football with Waterford manager Derek McGrath picking up the hurling award.

Ger Loughnane and Pat Spillane were added to the Hall of Fame while Eugene McGee picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Irish Independent

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