Q&A with Oisin O’Neill
Playing for your club, school, college and county are very different environments. How important have those opportunities been for you as you grew up and continued to improve?
I feel that the more exposure young players get to different environments ultimately the better it will be for their development. I am lucky that I have worked under many different coaches and I have learnt a lot from each of them. Playing in different systems allows me have a greater flexibility in my game and be more adaptable to challenges and scenarios that opposition throw at you.
You have played for Armagh at every level – what difference has that made to your evolution as a footballer?
In terms of my evolution Armagh has probably been the biggest influence. I started at 14 in the development squad system. The progression every year right up to the senior squad allowed me to become a more rounded player and develop my game to a different level. The coaches in Armagh have constantly challenged me to develop as a footballer and have really tried to work on my weaknesses and opened my eyes to the hard work it takes to play at the top level.
Which parts of your game did you have to work hardest on to develop and what came most naturally to you?
The part of my game I have had to work hardest at is my game awareness. I have had to adapt to what the opposition are trying to do and become more flexible to that. This involves having to make decisions quicker and thinking about what is best for the team in a split second.
Scoring and passing are aspects of my game which always came naturally to me. I was lucky that when I was younger my parents always took me to football for my club and school. I was always encouraged to work on my skills and try to get them to the best level I could and this is something I still try to do.
How did Orchard County development squad programs help to shape you as a player alongside your club and school?
I’ve been very lucky that I was born into a great club in Crossmaglen and went to a school in St Colman’s where a huge emphasis was put on football. The work that the academy squads did really put an emphasis on developing the weaker parts of my game. Also, they placed a lot of emphasis in preparing properly for games and training. These habits are something which I still use before games and have been invaluable to me.
How important has your practice ethic been to making yourself the player you are today?
To play at the top level you have to practice a hell of a lot. It is key to practice the fundamentals of the game regularly. During the season I like to go to the pitch for an extra kicking session at least once a week. The 10 minutes before training starts and the 10 minutes after it ends also provides a great opportunity to work with team mates on things which could come in useful during a game.
What advice would you offer a young footballer in Armagh moving towards secondary school age and wanting to play for their county in the future?
I would say to any young player to chase your dream. Try to get into good habits which will remain with you for the rest of your career.
Probably the most important thing is to take on board the advice of your coaches as they are only trying to help you achieve the potential that you already have. And enjoy it!!!