Cathal McShane on surgery, social isolation and the GAA's future

By Mark SidebottomBBC Sport NI
Cathal McShane sustained a bad ankle injury in Tyrone's heavy defeat by Kerry in February
McShane says the surgeon who operated on his ankle says the operation "went well"

"It's easy with hindsight," says Cathal McShane.

"That little bit of personal turbulence I was going through. Sure, it was nothing really in the context of what's going on in the world at the moment with this out-of-control virus."

All-Star full-forward, the foundation stone of Tyrone's front six, flamboyant and physical on the field, there is a coyness to McShane off it.

With a little bit of prompting, he has agreed to shoot the breeze for 20 minutes, to reflect on the claustrophobic six months that have been and the uncertainty of the six months which lie ahead.

"So where do we start, Mark?"

"How about the ankle, Cathal?"

"Well, I feel a bit awkward even talking about that now in these uncertain times," he admits.

"It'll heal, I'll be fine. Me and the Tyrone lads, like all sports people, are asking the public to support our NHS staff and not to socialise over the coming weeks, especially young people.

"For the sake of your family your friends your community please heed government and medical advice and social distance."

Surgery 10 days ago

On the matter of the ankle, he is proving as elusive to my line of questioning as he might to the Kerry full-back line.

"Yeah, I was operated on by Mr Alistair Wilson at the Ulster Independent Clinic," he says when I ask him about the surgery he recently underwent.

"He did a fine job, that was just ten days ago.

"I dislocated the ankle against Galway and bone fragments had come away. That's all been tidied up and I'm now in an air boot and taking it day by day."

McShane, like most of us, is house-bound at the moment.

"I'm hobbling about the place, being well looked after by my mum and girlfriend Caitlynn, but I'm probably wrecking their heads.

"The team WhatsApp has been a godsend and Tyrone's doctor Damian O'Donnell has been brilliant with advice on the virus and social isolation.

"I'm really looking forward to getting back to work with (my new employer) Keystone Lintels, they've been very flexible."

Cathal McShane sustained a bad ankle injury in Tyrone's heavy defeat by Kerry in February
Cathal McShane feels it is almost inappropriate to talk about his ankle injury amid the global concerns over the coronavirus at the moment

Family matters

The youngest of five - he has three sisters and one brother - McShane has been using the downtime to reconnect with family.

"On Sunday past I became a godfather for the second time to my little niece, Ava Rose McShane.

"It was a real privilege and I was so proud when my brother Gerard and partner Toni asked me. Ava Rose was born on 29 February, she's a real wee bundle.

"I couldn't hold her or have my photograph taken with her due to social distancing and although only a handful could attend the baptism it was still very special."

I ask him: "So, in the past six months, you have rejected a professional contract in Australia, come home to shoulder the weight and expectations of a ravenous football county, banjaxed your ankle and had corrective surgery - how do you see the next six months going?"

"Well, I'm looking forward to getting to know little Ava Rose. My surgeon is confident surgery has gone well. I'm not sure exactly when I will be back but I do hope to return fully fit.

"I'm not sure what lies ahead for the GAA and all sport this summer, but I'd be hopeful we'd see some action in a condensed calendar."

'We'll appreciate sport all the more'

McShane pauses to catch a final thought like he might the eye of a team-mate in full flight.

"Sport is brilliant and by God, we'll appreciate it all the more when we do eventually get back at it.

"It's not that sport doesn't matter, it's just that right now it's doesn't really seem to matter.

"I'm so looking forward to a time when it matters again, especially for the fans."

Aren't we all Cathal, aren't we all.

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