The old nature versus nurture debate is one that has been going on for years and has often caused debate and consternation among the scientific community. Whatever the pros and cons and whys and wherefores of it, one thing is for sure in footballing terms that genes do make a difference.
Anyone who has watched the development of Niall Mc Kenna over the years can testify that the talent he has often displayed was not just picked up off the ground. Watch him rise for a ball and, for those of us of a certain vintage, there is a sense of déjà vu at the high fielding, languid style of running that is so reminiscent of his father Eugene.
Eugene Mc Kenna was one of the best footballers this county ever produced and “The Master” could have held his own in any company. He was a truly fantastic footballer who played a central role in the resurgence of Tyrone as a football force in the eighties. Not only was he a fine fielder and distributor but he was a leader both on and off the field. He was a fierce competitor and was as hard as nails and when Mc Kenna hit you, you stayed hit. On the football field he led by example and in many matches for Tyrone he was often the difference between winning and losing.
I first saw young Niall at an under 15 Tyrone Development Squad trial in Cookstown a number of years ago and even then it obvious he was a special talent. He went on to star for his school and county under age sides showing that the potential was being nurtured and developed into a special talent. The display he gave of high fielding in the 2008 All Ireland Minor replay will live long in the memories of all who were there to see it.
Sunday last was a further opportunity to observe how the Queen’s University student is progressing and judging by what was on show, it would be true to say the progress he is making looks promising. The flame haired youngster has all the attributes of his father and then some and if he can develop the steel his father showed during his playing career, it might not be long before he also becomes a real leader on the field as well.