About six years ago, Michael Molloy was scraping bones at the family butcher’s shop in Killybegs.
The Kilcar forward, who is now 31, often spoke to his colleague, Johnny McLoone from Glenties, about what he might and might not do.
McLoone played inter-county football for Donegal and won a RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta Donegal SFC with his local club, Naomh Conaill, in 2005.
“Johnny gave me Jim McGuinness’s phone number one day,” Molloy says. “I always wanted to do something that involved fitness and Jim gave me the advice to go and do it.”
McGuinness had left school at Glenties Comprehensive before doing his Leaving Cert but returned to sit it at 24 years of age.
He continued his education and now holds an MSc in Sport Psychology from John Moore’s University, Liverpool; an Honours Degree in Sport, Exercise and Leisure from UUJ, and a Higher Cert in Health and Leisure Studies from Tralee IT.
“I was a mature student, just as he had been a mature student, and I didn’t know what to do,” Molloy adds.
“He told me about the access courses and about Liverpool. A year later I was here.”
Molloy, a Leaving Cert student from Coláiste na Carraige in 2000, completed Errigal College in Letterkenny’s Sport and Recreational Studies.
“At first I thought I wanted to be a PE teacher but that soon wasn’t what I wanted as I could see the level of a personal trainer,” he says.
“I love being in a gym. This is what I enjoy doing.”
Having completed additional courses in personal training and strength and conditioning, he runs his own business now - ‘Michael Molloy Personal Training’ with wife Felicity from Colchester - “literally five minutes” from John Lennon Airport.
There, he “covers everything from boot camps, training, one on ones to online diet plans.”
In Molloy’s last year at home, 2009, he wore the colours of his native Kilcar.
That same year, John Mitchels from Liverpool, who wear the same colours as the Towney based side, became the first team from off the Irish mainland to reach the All-Ireland JFC final, where they lost 0-10 to 0-9 to Skellig Rangers from Kerry.
It mattered little to Molloy at the time but it’s now the club he calls his own; scampering to and from training on a Tuesday and Thursday night in Widnes.
“You come back from training wrecked and then you’re being someone’s personal trainer,” he adds.
This Sunday, the Lancashire and British champions are back to within a stone’s throw of the All-Ireland JFC final again.
Moate All Whites, the Westmeath and Leinster champions, will provide the opposition at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, throw-in 1pm.
Molloy will start at either full-forward or corner-forward and Buncrana native Matty Deeney is the club’s goalkeeper.
Elsewhere, Colm Gallagher from Mountcharles is trainer and Connaill Beag Cunningham from Naomh Columba is part of the management team. Pettigo’s Kevin Kane is one of just three survivors from 2009.
Mitchels sealed their place in the semi-final with a 1-14 to 1-9 victory over Galway and Connacht champions Oileáin Árainn - the Aran Islands - at Páirc na hÉireann in Birmingham.
Mitchels clinched the British title in a dramatic contest against North London Shamrocks in November, winning 4-12 to 3-11 with Molloy scoring 1-5.
“We hadn’t played that well till we faced North London,” Molloy says of their run so far. “It was the same against Aran Islands, who landed over with RTÉ and Hector with them. That game was done in 15 minutes.
“We’re going well but Moate will be a different case. We’re always going to be underdogs; any team coming from the UK will be. But that suits us just fine.”
Aside the Donegal contingent, Mitchels have a strong side.
Pauric McGuirk, the full-back, was with the Monaghan U-21s and former Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney had expressed an interest in Paddy Mulligan coming back to line out for the Lilywhites.
Kieran Lynham, who will play alongside Molloy inside, represented Westmeath, so will be well-known to Sunday’s opponents.
At home now, Molloy’s father John works for McLoone, the man who he sold his butcher’s to.
Uncle Michael has succeeded John McNulty and Rory Gallagher as Kilcar manager because Gallagher is the man who is entrusted with continuing the legacy of McGuinness.
Michael Molloy also followed in McGuinness’s footsteps, in his case to Liverpool.
This Sunday in Navan he would love to see Mitchels make a giant leap.
“The Irish community is strong so the transition isn’t so big,” Molloy adds of Liverpool.
“The boys will help you get work and settle in. We early all came from the universities. For someone who’s into gyms and fitness, Liverpool’s facilities are unbelievable.
“The main difference I find is that work comes first, whereas sometimes at home it was football that came first and then work came second.”
This week, there might be a change to that order - football will certainly come first.
It’ll be just like home.