Monday 23 April 2018

I was fed up and ready to quit game – McShane

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

PAUL McSHANE'S summer holidays start today and, for the first time in a long time, they will begin with a sense of satisfaction about the season he is leaving behind.

Involvement in the New York friendly with Spain this morning was his last act of a campaign that made him feel like a footballer again, with his key role in Hull's successful campaign banishing dark thoughts about quitting the game.

Now, he can look forward to top-flight football again, although he still needs to sort out the finer points of a new contract; his existing deal expired at the end of the campaign. "Jerry Maguire is in there at the moment!" he quips. "It's under negotiations. I don't think there'll be any problems."

He acknowledges that it represents quite a turnaround to be talking about extending his stay at Hull, when, for so much of his four years with the club, he felt as though he had no future there, with the latter half of the previous two seasons spent on loan with Barnsley and Crystal Palace respectively.

"Those two or three years, I didn't feel like a Hull player at all," he reflects. "I was going out on loan and I just wouldn't know where I'd be from one week to the next. It was horrible, awful stuff.

"That's the way it worked. I just kept plugging away, doing the right things and deep down I knew it would pay off."

There's plenty of people within football who feel happy for him. McShane is an extremely popular player, a strong character with a sharp sense of humour and a good attitude.

He's needed that to cope with the abuse that has come his way, with poking fun at the Wicklow man a popular social media pastime. It's something that he has learned to live with.

Mental strength has always been part of his make-up and it was therefore a bit of a surprise to hear in the aftermath of the Championship's final day that the 27-year-old really did contemplate packing it in.

"I was ready to pack the bleeding game in, I was fed up," he says. "That's the way things work out. You're tempted into thinking, 'there's nothing stopping me going AWOL here'."

MENTALITY

His late father Sean passed away three years ago and was a huge influence on his son's mentality. When McShane struggled, perspective was always close at hand.

"Things have happened over the past couple of years where football doesn't seem that important in the bigger scheme of things," he stresses.

It allowed him to focus on his day-to-day work, and that unique approach to training that sets him apart.

When young McShane was first called into an Ireland squad, ahead of the game with the Czech Republic in 2006, he announced himself to the group by diving into a couple of tackles and letting people know he was there.

Eventually, it endeared him to those who were at first a little taken aback. While it would have been easy to go through the motions when he was persona non grata at Hull, he stood by his principles.

"I was always preparing for training, games, whatever else I was doing, because I had a responsibility to my team-mates to keep it up, keep working, even if I wasn't playing.

"Football is my life, I give everything to it and I will keep doing that until the day I'm finished."

Although Giovanni Trapattoni has always kept the faith, McShane wants to be given another crack at centre-half. He has started two games in this summer window at right-back, a position he no longer plays at club level. It is a source of frustration.

"It always comes back to full-back," he sighs. "But the whole season I've played at centre-half. My debut was at centre-back; I've played there for the best part of my career. I can do a job at full-back, but I see my long-term future at centre-back." Has he spoken to Trapattoni about it?

"No, no, words are cheap. I've got to do the actions and I've been trying to do that all season, playing centre-half for a team that got promoted."

It will give him added focus for next term, when he gets another chance to sample the higher level after brief stints there with Sunderland and Hull.

"You think to yourself, 'will I get another crack at it?' And I have that now," he enthuses. "The first time, I was quite young. I've more experience now, I can use that to my advantage."

The next phase of his journey begins on July 8. He's earned the break.

Irish Independent

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