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Saturday 16 December 2017

Switched on to Dublin

Midfield maestro Fennell insists media work just a sideline as he channels his focus into football

DENIS Bastick's recent appearance on RTE's wedding programme 'Franc's DIY Brides' drew a predictable response from his Dublin team-mates, but one, perhaps, enjoyed the backlash more than the rest.

Because it's usually Eamon Fennell putting himself out there for a bit of a laugh and a bit of publicity and, well, a bit of craic, really.

"He got a bit of abuse and rightly so," Fennell laughs when probed for the reaction from within the sanctum of the Dubs' dressing-room.

"I missed it because I was doing my own show. But the lads all told me about it. They said he seemed a bit nervous on it and his wife was a bit more confident than him so he got a good ribbing over it.

"I got a good bit of abuse for some of the things that I've done ... "

Ah yes.

Infamously, there was Fennell's appearance on TV3's dating programme, 'Take Me Out', a show in which a single male -- usually self-styled 'characters' -- put themselves up for selection/rejection from a bunch of young ladies.

Hamster

For his party piece, Fennell performed a magic trick involving a hamster.

Before that, even he accepts that there was a time when he tried and failed to lead the double-life of man-about-town and intercounty footballer and says he cringes at the memory.

"I do. I think there were a lot more things that appealed to me," he reflects. "Football wasn't my main focus back then like it is now. I definitely made a lot of mistakes. When I got dropped off the Dublin team I thought: 'What was I doing? That was my dream gone.'

"But when you have time to look back on it you realise that football has to be the be-all and end-all. That's the way it is for me now. I wouldn't do anything to jeopardise my football career and I wouldn't let anything get in the way of it."

Crucially, he has drawn the line between business and pleasure and as a DJ, both on the gig circuit around Dublin and with Phantom FM, that's not so easily achieved.

"It's more evening work," he explains. "But it just means that I have to make sure I'm well rested. I have to make sure I'm going in in the right frame of mind."

He points out: "I wouldn't do anything the week of a match, but it's all about how you manage your time and how you look after yourself when you're away from the team. I've mastered that. Well ... I like to think so anyway.

"I know when I first came onto the panel, I got sucked into a lot of the things that come with the Dublin team. I made a lot of mistakes in the past."

He confirms there is little cross-over between the GAA scene and the music business but says that's no harm either.

"My co-presenter Orlaith, she's the reason I got into Phantom. She's a massive Dublin fan and she goes to all of the league games. It just helps that you have that bond with someone there already.

"There is a bit of a difference between the two scenes. I'm always there with a protein shake or a smoothie when they're all having tea or whatever.

"But I'd be very conscious not to be there too late and I would make sure not to involve myself in things in nightclubs because even if I'm not doing anything, people will just assume the worst if they see you there. You have to know your cut-off point."

Pressures

Fennell's television career almost re-blossomed this year when TV3 became interested.

This time, they wanted to make a programme about his new business venture, selling beauty products and flat shoes in nightclubs, but he pulled out due to the pressures on his time.

"I never knew the demands of filming were so high. They told me I had to miss training and I just couldn't do it. I'm not going to miss training and jeopardise my position for a TV show," he said.

"Playing for Dublin is something I always want to do, it's hard to get into the team, I've started now and I'm not going to jeopardise that for the sake of being on a TV show. If I miss training, Pat (Gilroy) wouldn't take too kindly to it. It was a no-brainer."

Football-wise, Fennell looks in the best physical shape of his career. He started in Gilroy's maiden 2012 championship selection and looks set to hold onto his place on Sunday, when the Dubs take on Wexford for the fourth time in five Leinster Championships.

Two of which, Dublin escaped by the skins of the collective teeth, as he points out himself.

Luck

"We took the game from them the last day (in last year's Leinster final). We were handed the game. It was theirs to win but just that one mistake ... it goes to show what can happen on the day. Luck can get you through.

"Wexford are a step up from Louth, though. They've hurt teams already this year. You just have to be very aware of them breaking from deep and coming at you and stopping them because if they get a run on you, you're not going to catch them."

He adds: "But we have to worry about our own performance. It's the only thing we can control."

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