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Kitchen is a tough playing field for GAA legend Oisin

Thursday, 9 February 2017

ARMAGH GAA legend Oisin McConville was renowned for his skills on the pitch during his past football career, but being in the kitchen is something of a whole new ball game for him.

But that hasn't deterred him from cooking up a storm as a contestant in TV3's Celebrity MasterChef Ireland.

A self-confessed novice when it comes to the culinary world, the South Armagh man admits it was a daunting experience stepping onto the studio kitchens with nine other celebrity contestants - including singers Samantha Mumba and Niamh Kavanagh.

"I knew very little," says the South Armagh man, who during his impressive County career also played for Crossmaglen Rangers. "The terminology, the skills...it was all completely new to me. Two or three weeks beforehand I learned all the basic skills before filming started. It was a real steep learning curve. I felt completely out of my depth.

"On my first day I was cooking steak and chips with a peppered sauce and I looked around and could see that another dish being cooked up was duck breast and pomegranates with a molasses sauce - I didn't even know what a pomegranate was!"

Father to young boys, Conall (2) and four-year-old Ryan, Oisin adds that it was his wife, Darina who encouraged him to accept the gig. "I think her thinking was that at the very least I'd be able to do something around the house," explains the retired footballer.

Filming for each episode took around two-and-a-half days, and the pressure he says was at times intense, but his first-time nerves were eased, rather surprisingly, by the two judges - chefs, Englishman Daniel Clifford, who has appeared on the BBC's Great British Menu, and Dubliner, Robin Gill.

"They really, really helped me. I think they could see that I was a blank canvas and that was I taking everything in. They wanted us to improve."

Between filming there was a lot of "hanging around", but that gave the opportunity for a bit of craic with the fellow contestants - particularly Niamh Kavanagh, Met Eireann weather presenter, Evelyn Cusack and Simon Delaney. "Niamh is one of the funniest women I've ever met, and Simon, well like me, he's a United supporter."

With the mid-way point in the series, three celebrities have already been given the chop and in the third episode Oisin found himself in the bottom two - but was saved from hanging up his apron when Nadia Forde was eliminated instead.

Regardless of how much further he progresses in the show, Oisin says his skills in the kitchen have vastly improved as the result of being in the show. "Now I have the skills I can just go ahead and make something, and everything is made from scratch now. It's completely changed family life."

Celebrity MasterChef Ireland is shown on TV3 on Mondays at 10pm.

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