Express & Star

Walsall's Oisin McEntee happy with early choice on future plans

Walsall’s Oisin McEntee was not only an accomplished footballer in his youth, but he also had promise in Gaelic football.


His father played GAA at inter-county level for Cavan and his son naturally followed him into the sport.

After juggling the two sports from a young age, McEntee eventually had to make the choice between GAA and football, and is certain that he made the right decision.

He said: “I played when I was growing up. My dad was the manager so I would’ve been bouncing from football to Gaelic football.

“Then there came a time when I had to take one sport more seriously and I chose football.

“It was the right decision. I was getting contract offers from around 15-16 and then I moved to England.”

McEntee was attracting meaningful glances from clubs in England and made the switch to Newcastle United aged 16, where he learnt the ropes under former Everton and England defender Dave Watson.

“Dave Watson was my first under-18s manager and he was brilliant for me,” he recalled.

“He used to play centre-back so he helped me a lot. There were a lot of top coaches at Newcastle who definitely improved me as a player.

“I was unfortunate with injuries at times but I feel they developed me well. They drill into you about the importance of being professional every single day. Work hard every day as if it’s your last.

“I was a little bit raw when I first came over to England but they helped improve my technical ability and also taught me the tactical side of the game.”

McEntee would go onto captain the Magpies under-18s and amassed 58 appearances at youth level over four seasons at the club.

He also totted up 20 caps across various age groups for Republic of Ireland - representing the under-17s at the European Championships in England in 2018.

Ireland reached the quarter-finals where they were pitted against the Netherlands, who featured Arsenal defender Jurrien Timber, Leeds winger Crysencio Summerville and Ajax striker Brian Brobbey.

After a 1-1 draw, Ireland would ultimately suffer penalty shoot-out heartbreak, but not before McEntee was thrust into the thick of the drama.

He explained: “Our goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran was sent off for stepping off his line and I was was nominated to go in goal. So it’s a fun fact to say I’ve played in goal for my country.

“That’s the only time I’ve ever been in goal and I only went in for one penalty.”

McEntee, who scored six goals for Walsall this term prior to his hamstring injury on Boxing Day, knew he needed to gain experience elsewhere as he prepared for a future in the professional game.

And his loan spell at Greenock Morton in the Scottish second-tier provided him with the necessary experience which would ultimately paved the way for his switch to Walsall.

“I loved getting up to play men’s football and I embraced it quite well,” McEntee notes.

“I played most of the games until I broke my hand at Christmas. I had gone up there with my Newcastle teammate Tom Allen and it was a great year for me.

“It helped bring out that next level to my game because men’s football is completely different to academy football and the development league.

“You’re playing for three points and you have to take it seriously week in, week out. It taught me a lot of the lessons that are now so important at Walsall.”