It's hard to imagine the great Armagh team of the early 00s without Francie Bellew at the heart of its defence. However, Oisin McConville revealed last week on our GAA podcast, that Bellew, one of the most loved Gaelic footballers of the last 15 years, almost never played for his county.
While speaking to Anthony Moyles and Niall Kelly, McConville told the story of Bellew's first training session; a man he describes as 'one of the quietest people that you'll ever meet.'
A notoriously shy fella, Bellew had never played football for Armagh at any level before Joe Kernan took over as the county's manager. Kernan knew just how good the Crossmaglen clubman could be however and decided it was time Francie put his social anxiety to bed.
Joe having took over the Armagh team in 2002 rang Francie and said:
''Francie, I want you to be part of the Armagh team.''
''Right, dead on Joe.''
''We're training Tuesday night.''
''Right. Dead on Joe. Whereabouts is that?''
''Right. See you there.''
Francie never turned up. Thursday night came. Francie never showed up.
So the following Tuesday, Joe called to his house and he wasn't there, he wasn't home from work. And Joe waited for him for 45 minutes. So much so that Joe was actually late for training that night. And he arrived in with Francie Bellew and that was Francie's first training session.
Isn't it mad that one of the toughest players of his generation could be so quiet of the field? Indeed McConville said 'I never thought Francie would play with the county. For the simple reason that he was just that shy and quiet.'
Well we're certainly glad he did. It just goes to show that not every county player fits the stereotype and it got us wondering how many other players could be great if someone like Kernan had showed a little faith in them?
That's just one of the great Francie stories his Crossmaglen teammate tells. There are also the tales of his body fat percentage and his run-in with Justin McNulty. You can listen to the full interview with McConville below, with the Francie chat from 29mins 30secs:
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