TG4’s ‘Underdogs’ will return to our TV’s screens this evening after making a resurgence during 2018, 10 years after the series last aired. Led by Paul Galvin, Valerie Mulcahy and Ray Silke last years hopefuls were untimely trounced by Dublin in the season finale. Mulcahy will continue her coaching role for the new season while Kevin Cassidy and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan form a quality management team.
Armagh are well represented in this year’s Underdogs squad and one of the panel members is Madden’s Aron McKenna, who never considered signing up for the show but insists it’s one of the best moves he could have made, “There was an application form for it and last year five or six people had sent it to me but I was going away to America so I never bothered”.
“Again this year one of the boys sent it to me and said “if you don’t go for it I’m going to put you in for it” so I decided to go for it. I applied for it online and got word back. Then I went to a trial, four trials all together and I went down to Trim in May time and that’s pretty much how it started”.
Joining the skilful corner forward in the newly formed squad will be two others who play their club football within the Orchard County, “There’s three of us on it at the minute, there’s myself, Cathal McKenna from Dromintee and Diarmuid O’Hagan from Eire Og as well”.
The coaches involved are all big names in GAA circles and it was great getting to know them according to McKenna who enjoyed some memorable moments with all three coaches, “The first day was with Kevin and Valerie and Kevin Cassidy’s a legend so I was a wee bit nervous but it’s the same with Valerie, she has a big reputation and she’s probably the G.O.A.T of women’s football”.
“They’re football mad, they’re GAA mad and they’re good people too and they get involved and they’re a good presence to have about and you learn a lot even just listening to them. Some of the stories Cassidy told us about what happened up in his pub after they (Gaoth Dobhair) won Ulster. Mickey Ned (O’Sullivan) as well I got chatting to him at the first camp. We went to a camp down in Carlow and I was chatting to him for 20 minutes and some of the stories he was telling, he’s a legend”.
It’s not all fun and games however as the management team are building their squad in a professional manner, “To be honest it’s extremely strict, the first camp we were at we were given a log in, the smarterbase app, so everything you eat, all your training, has to be logged in to it”.
“The training sessions we do, Michael McGeehan he’s the trainer, the three coaches obviously coach and manage the team but Michael takes all the training. He has a big reputation himself, he’s been with Donegal and Mayo and UL down in Limerick so his training is top class and it’s very hard but I suppose that’s what you need if you’re going to be playing up against a county team”.
The football, the crack, the training, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to joining up with the Underdogs outfit and McKenna insists that the best thing about his time in their ranks so far has been creating relationship with new people, “The best thing is meeting people from all different counties, playing with boys you’d never play with from Cork and Kerry and Galway”.
“The first day I went to the trial and contemplated even going to the next one but it was one of the best decisions I ever made in Gaelic Football. It’s just a great experience and I know we haven’t played the big match yet, I think its two months away but just meeting new people and that’s probably the best thing about it and I would definitely recommend it to anybody to give it ago”.