There are few people who you meet in sport that you know will make an impact when they get their chance.
Seamie Coleman was certainly one. I remember one of the first times I saw him play Gaelic football for Killybegs. This little lad with number six on his back dictating the play to much bigger, stronger lads. He played without any fear and with a hunger you would rarely see in someone so young.
Seamie has come a long way from those days. It’s no surprise, you knew if he was given a chance he had the right attributes to make it. He would train morning, noon and night just to get fitter than anyone else. If his touch was not right on any given day he would stay longer just to improve it. If his positional play was not spot on he would watch endless dvd’s to see where it was he was letting the side down.
His appetite to improve was evident from a young age and it’s why he is regarded as one of the best right backs in the Premiership. At 16 he was playing senior Gaelic football for Killybegs and soccer for St. Catherine’s. He wasn’t one of the shy, young lads who would stand back and let some of the older lads run the show; he was the one making the tackles, showing the intensity and the leadership that was required and always a winner, never settling for second best. Nothing has changed from the outside looking in. Watching him play for Everton or for Ireland you still see that determination in his eyes; he never accepts second best from himself or anyone around him. His teammates look up to him and considering he came late to professional football it just shows the strides he has made and in such a short time.
I watched him play Liverpool in a Merseyside derby in Anfield, a huge night for both the red side and the blue side of the city. I didn’t go to watch the game as such, it was just to be there, watch a lad that I had managed playing Gaelic football and now playing in the cauldron that was Anfield. Who would have thought, watching him tear up and down the line, throwing himself into tackles, relentless. Even the red side were talking about him. A great night and one I will remember for a long time.
I was reading a piece that Seamie did for the Irish Times a while back where his hope, after finishing his professional soccer career, is to come home, play again for the local clubs. Some might think it’s easy to say and maybe make a few friends but that’s not the way Seamie rolls. He will come back and play and what’s more it will not just be for the fun of it; he will want to be successful and he generates that sort of atmosphere with his presence.
Of course it goes without saying that everyone from the area are proud of the lad, but for those that watched on as he grew from a young boy carrying a football under his arm day and probably to bed, to now; to compete with the best Europe has to offer, knowing him he will not be overawed by any of it and I have no doubt he will embrace the occasion with the same enthusiasm and appetite that has taken him so far in his time playing the game.
There’s three cer2tain days this year when the streets of Killybegs will be quiet. Nothing will move - bank holidays or Seamie holidays as such - June 13th v Sweden, June 18th v Belgium and June 22nd v Italy.
For those dates it will be green, white and gold, with number two jerseys everywhere. Whether it’s Zlatan Ibrahimović, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku or Thiago Motta, they will hold no fear for the St. Cummin’s Hill man.
If you asked him whether Ireland had a chance I know the answer. No point going if you can’t go all the way, the attitude that is etched into his psyche.
Regardless of how Ireland get on or what Everton do in the next five years there will only ever be one Seamie around here. He broke the mould; he has set the bar and has never changed.
I have often had the pleasure of chatting with Seamie over a cuppa. What strikes you very quickly is he is not interested in talking about what is going on in his life; he asks about the family and what’s going on.
Life has to change for young lads when they get such riches and idolisation. Very few can take such changes in their stride and still remain firmly on the ground, but Seamus Coleman does.
I know people will say it all the time about people that make it to the top, they haven’t changed a bit. Seamie hasn’t. Anyway Gav, Davy, Jayo and particularly his brother, Stevie, would not let that happen, but they wouldn’t have to try too hard.
I asked a number of people when I was asked to do this piece what word best describes Seamie, honourable, determined, inspiring, respectful, loyal but for me one of his best traits is his humility. He is aware at all times of the opportunity he has got and has never stopped working to repay those people who gave him the chance. He is determined to enjoy every minute of it but at the same time never forgets where it started.
Like all of us, I hope this is the year that Ireland make a huge impact on the world stage and for all the right reasons and no better man to drive it on than Seamie.