Manchester United, West Brom, Sunderland, Barnsley, Crystal Palace – Paul McShane tells of his ‘horrible’ football journey, and finding a home at Hull

David Meyler (right)
David Meyler (right)
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PAUL McShane is one of football’s survivors.

The 27-year-old defender at one point considered turning his back on football with his career, which had begun as a teenager at Manchester United, having stalled.

However, McShane was due to line up for the Republic of Ireland against Spain during the early hours of Wednesday morning in the finals throes of a season which also saw him help Hull regain their Barclays Premier League status.

That represents a remarkable turn-around for a man who has endured difficult times both on and off the field in recent years.

McShane said: “You think to yourself, ‘Will I ever get another crack at it (the Barclays Premier League)?’ I have another crack at it now.

“The first time I was in the Premier League, I was quite young, I was 21, 22, 23. I’ve more experience now. I can use that to my advantage. I know what to expect. I’m looking forward to it.”

McShane got his first taste of the top flight with Sunderland during the 2007-08 season after compatriot Roy Keane invested £2.5million to secure his services from West Brom.

However, his adventure was short-lived with Keane looking to alternatives as he attempted to rebuild the Black Cats, and in what was to become a familiar refrain his in career, he found himself surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.

Hull came to the rescue with a loan deal and then a permanent transfer, but that too turned sour in the wake of Phil Brown’s departure with successors Nigel Pearson and then Nick Barmby ultimately deciding he would not be part of their respective plans.

That meant more soul searching and further temporary moves to Barnsley and Crystal Palace, an experience which proved hugely demoralising.

McShane said: “It was horrible. It was awful stuff. That’s the way it worked.

“Those two or three years, I didn’t feel like a Hull player at all. I was going out on loan and I’d come back to the lads and we’d be talking about the new season and I just wouldn’t know where I’d be from one week to the next.

“That’s the nature of the game sometimes. I’ve obviously witnessed that. It’s been good to me this year, so I just want to keep cracking on. We’ll see what happens.

“I just kept plugging away, kept doing the right things. Deep down I knew it would pay off. I was always keeping my eye on the ball. It paid off in the end, thankfully.

“Back in the Premier League. I keep saying it, I’m just looking forward to it.”

McShane also had to deal with the death of his father Sean, who died from a pulmonary embolism after undergoing surgery to address a condition resulting from his days as a hurler, in March 2010.

That loss hit the defender hard, but he admits it has helped him to put his football woes, and his misgivings about continuing in the game, into greater perspective.

He said: “It’s hard. It’s not as if things happen to you and it’s grand. It’s just coming through it. I did come through it. It’s just something you have to do.

“Things have happened over the last few years where football doesn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things.

“I just knew deep down that it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

That instinct proved correct when current Hull boss Steve Bruce restored McShane to the fold and handed him a key role in the Tigers’ promotion drive.

However, as his team-mates celebrated, he joined up with the Ireland squad for the four games they have played since the end of the domestic season, and he will have little time to rest and reflect before he is back in harness once again.

McShane said: “Nowadays, there’s no such thing as an off-season. You’ve got to keep ticking over.

“I’ll try to enjoy myself as much as I can, but I’ll have one eye on the new season. I’ll get a few weeks, I’ll be grand.”