GAA Football

Oisin McConville: I'd bail out if Brexit badly goes wrong

Crossmaglen's Oisin McConville and St Eunan's Michael Martin during an Ulster Club clash
Paul Keane

Armagh legend Oisin McConville has admitted he'd have to "bail out" of his beloved Crossmaglen with his young family in the event of a hard border returning in the area.

The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the make up of the British government has left those in south Armagh keeping their fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

McConville is the new manager of Monaghan side Inniskeen but while that's just a 15-minute drive from his home, it's also in another county and, crucially, beyond the international border.

A general election will take place in the UK tomorrow and it remains to be seen how the new government proceeds with the Brexit arrangement.

McConville grew up during the Troubles when 'the norm was bombings and shootings and killings, windows being blown in, all that sort of stuff' and said the potential for a return to a physical border and possible violence fills him with dread.

"There is a possibility, and that might only be a small possibility, but there's a possibility that it could lead to further trouble," said the 2002 All-Ireland winner.

"And for somebody to put us back into that situation, the first thing I'd do is bail out. I'd take the kids and I'd bail out because I wouldn't bring my kids up in that scenario.

"I live in Cross, just outside it. There's no way I would bring my kids up in that now. No chance. So even the fact that there is even a slight possibility, that would fill me with fear to be honest."

McConville admitted he didn't realise until he was 11 that his troubled surroundings weren't normal and acknowledged that a gambling addiction he later developed was partly from 'trauma' arising from the conflict.

All of those memories were dragged right back up for the former Crossmaglen player and manager when he undertook a five-day trip to the occupied Palestinian territories with Trocaire to view a number of projects supporting those affected by the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the ongoing occupation of the West Bank.

"I suppose it might be unfair to make a direct comparison to what was going on in Cross but there's loads of similarities," said McConville, who identified with the 'intimidation, oppression and harassment' of locals.

"I remember we used to train in Lurgan with Armagh, I think it was my second year there. Everyone was collected at Cross at half six and we would have been in Lurgan at half seven.

"We left Cross one day and we were stopped six times on the way because they (soldiers) knew what the route was.

"We were stopped six times when they'd take the bags out of the car, they threw on the ground what was in them.

"They didn't put the stuff back in the car. We eventually arrived at a quarter to 10, had a cup of tea and went home again.

''Do you know what I mean? That was the sort of situation."

McConville said even the slimmest prospect of a return to those days is a concerning one.

"It'd be a real pain, to be honest," he said. "It would make the Inniskeen job really, really tough because I'd have to cross the border.

"One of the reasons, not the main reason, but one of the reasons for taking the job is that the commute is 15 minutes. That would definitely change and make it a bit of a nightmare."

McConville said he was only partly ready for what awaited him on his trip with Trocaire and couldn't believe the resilience of children in particular.

"Here, people are doing resilience courses, management teams are doing that all the time but resilience was just there in front of your face all the time out there. It was so patently obvious," added McConville.

** Oisín McConville travelled to the occupied Palestinian territories with Trócaire to highlight their Christmas Appeal, which will help to support families who are living in conflict zones around the world. Donate at: www.trocaire.org/christmas-appeal

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