Name: Darragh McGurn

Sport: GAA

How did you become involved in your sport?

I became involved at a young age, I grew up watching Gaelic football, my earliest memory being the 2004 All Ireland quarter final against Armagh, which inspired me to play Gaelic football at first. My father got me started with Belnaleck U8s on a Saturday morning and it has unfolded from there.

What is it you love about your sport?

There’s many things, being part of a team with people you grew up with and having a chance to be successful with them is special, and something we only really take for granted until it’s taken away from us. It brings a structure which can be very helpful for life in general.

I also love the physical and mental aspects of GAA. The commitment and dedication required to succeed at a high level is something that brings massive rewards. Without the GAA I wouldn’t have met the majority of my closest friends so it’s definitely a rewarding sport to be involved in. I love the strength and conditioning side to things as well, GAA is unique in that to perform at the highest level you need to be at a high level of fitness, strength and speed which isn’t common in many sports.

What are your earliest sporting memories?

My earliest sporting memory is the 2004 match as I mentioned, I can just vaguely remember the celebration straight after the final whistle, which is something I have never forgotten. However, my earliest playing memory was an U10 blitz in Belnaleck, involving teams from all over Fermanagh. Only reason I remember it so well is because I won player of the tournament, I still have the trophy sitting in my room, which is probably why I will always remember it. I also remember my primary school days fondly, winning the hurling mini sevens tournament with Tattygar every year sticks out in my mind. Competing with other bigger schools was something I enjoyed massively when I was there as we were a small school with maybe 55 pupils.

Who was, or is, your biggest influence?

Growing up I always heard about the footballer my Granda, Frank McGurn was, both for Belnaleck and Fermanagh. I have always wanted to replicate his achievements, including his 1959 All Ireland medal. I think I’ve changed my goals slightly as I’ve gotten older but having someone like him to inspire me was a big part of my progress growing up.

Who do you look up to in your current sport?

Growing up I always looked up to players from the great Kerry teams of the 2000s, Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy would be two that spring to mind. Over the last 10 years players like Michael Murphy have inspired me to improve. Past Fermanagh players I looked up to were players from the 04 and 08 teams including the likes of Marty McGrath and Colm Bradley (mainly due to his shocking hairstyle).

Could you give us an example of what a typical week looks like for yourself?

Recently it has been weird, I train in some shape or form everyday, to keep the mind sane if anything. We all have programs to do which is great to bring some structure and organisation to the week. Typically, I’ll do three to four running sessions a week to work on areas like speed, agility and conditioning and then I’ll do three gym sessions throughout the week. Among that I’ll try and fill my time cooking, practicing my kicking, reading or listening to audiobooks/podcasts. I find keeping a consistent routine to each day has been the best way for me.

What do you think are the keys to being successful in sport?

Having discipline when it’s easiest to give in or take the easy option is key. I think you have to be prepared to put in the hard work that majority of people will not. It’s grand doing the stuff that everyone is expected to do like keeping fit and strong, but in order to be successful I believe it’s the finer details to your training and preparation that will separate you from the rest. How you view your failures/setbacks will determine how hard you work to correct them, which will set you up best for success. Focusing on the process day in day out and working to fulfil your potential is more important than the end goal, as that leaves you in the best position to become successful. When you look at players who have succeeded in the game, such as Ciaran Kilkenny, it’s obvious that he spends hours on the football field fine tuning his skills as well as being in ridiculous physical condition.

What have been your biggest successes to date?

Winning a Junior Championship followed by an Intermediate Championship the next year with Belnaleck was special. Getting promoted to Division One this year was also a great achievement, so I’ve definitely had success in my first three years with the club seniors. Winning Fermanagh Club Young Player of the Year in 2018 and a club All Star in 2019 were also decent achievements. I’ll have a lot more to write here in five years.

What are your goals for the future?

To win a Senior Championship with Belnaleck in the coming years and to win an Ulster title with Fermanagh would be goals of mine. Getting Fermanagh and Belnaleck back competing with the top teams would also be one of the goals, which is well within our abilities. Personally, the goals would to just be the best possible footballer I can become by improving weaknesses within my game like my weak foot.

What bit of advice would you offer to anyone starting out in your chosen sport?

Control the controllable’s, practice both sides as often as you can, enjoy it and don’t worry about what others are doing. At an early age, being comfortable off both feet will set you up massively for success in the future.