Question and answer with Donal Reid ahead of book launch

'Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer' to be launched tonight

Question and answer with Donal Reid ahead of book launch

Tonight in the Abbey Hotel, Donegal town, All-Ireland winner Donal Reid will launch his autobiography, 'Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer'.

Admission to the launch is free and all proceeds from the book go to Pieta House.

Ahead of the launch Peter Campbell had a question and answer session with him about his career.

Can you remember the first time you pulled on a pair of football boots and who were your opponents?

As soon as I went to school, I always wanted football boots. My mum eventually bought me a second-hand pair of rounded toe boots. Fifty years ago the ball was kicked from the ground with the point of the toe. I believe that my first competitive game was an under 12 game against St. Eunan’s. I was 10 years of age.

You mention in the book that you were aware from an early age that you were competitive and sport came easy to you. Did you know then that you would win All-Ireland medals?

Yes, I knew that I was different because people kept telling me that I ran well or played well. I was a bad loser. If I lost a juvenile race or an under-age football match I’d cry for ages afterwards. I was inconsolable.

I won medals at national level for Finn Valley as a youngster but never dreamed that I would one day win All-Ireland football medals. My ambition as a county minor footballer was to play in Croke Park one day. I was fortunate to have come through the ranks with many talented players.

What, would you consider, to be the biggest difference between playing club football and inter-county football?

The biggest difference is the pace and intensity of play. Players get less time on the ball. Technical skills are also more refined in inter-county football. I also believe that because inter-county football games have more officials, there is less ‘off-the-ball’ misdemeanours. Although there are bigger hits in inter-county football, players have more protection than in club football.

After winning the All-Ireland U-21 title in 1982, was that a factor in giving Donegal belief that they could go and reach the very top at senior level?

Yes, for sure. This was a major breakthrough for Donegal senior football. We needed that psychological boost. We made hard work of it in the intervening years though and it was only when our second All-Ireland U-21 winning team of 1987 maturd that the jigsaw was complete.

In all of your competitive games for Donegal, who would you consider to have been your toughest opponent? Could you name the best 15 you played against?

My toughest opponent was Kieran Duff, Dublin. I was probably a bit naive and overwhelmed with the Dublin team. One moment he was talking to me and without me noticing he was at the far side of Croke Park slotting the ball over the bar. It was a massive lesson for me.

Other tough opponents were Mickey Linden (Down), Tommy Dowd (Meath), Damien Cassidy (Derry) and Maurice Fitzgerald (Kerry). There was definitely no talking with these guys. Duff taught me that of course. Fitzgerald gave me the run-around in Ballyshannon but I don’t recall the other players giving me a lot of problems. These were fast and technically gifted players

The best 15 that I played against:
.Charlie Nelligan; Paudie O’Shea, Sean Walsh, Niall Cahalane; Martin O’Connell, Tom Spillane, Jimmy Kerrigan; Jack O’Shea, Brian Mullins; Pat Spillane, Larry Tompkins, Kieran Duff; Mikey Sheehy, Frank McGuigan, Bernard Flynn.

Did you keep any records? Do you know how much you scored in a Donegal shirt?

No. I have no idea. I do know that I scored six points in one game against Derry in the McKenna Cup in Ballyshannon. Obviously, Galway Boston thought that I was a ‘sharp-shooter because they had me out playing for them that particular summer! Although I did start out as a half-forward I played most of my career as a half-back. Half-backs were not encouraged to go forward that much then and the half-forwards were not told to track back. I couldn’t take that many chances because Joyce McMullin who played in front of me wasn’t too keen in covering for me.

At club level, Red Hugh's, Bundoran, Taras, who were the players you played against at club level?

I played against many good and great players in my club career. I started playing senior football for Robert Emmett’s at 16 years of age. For most of my career I played senior football with Red Hugh’s, Bundoran and Taras. I played against most of the winning Donegal team players in 1983, 1990 and 1992.

Football was a huge part of your life . . . as a player and then manager. What was the transition like from player to manager and then a life outside of football?

This was one of the most difficult times of my life. Every facet of my existence revolved around football. I always dreaded that time when I knew I would have to stop playing inter-county football. Overnight, my career was over as happens when every player decides to retire. There’s a massive void which nothing ever fills. I went into management because I was hooked to Gaelic football like an addiction. Though I enjoyed management it never was the same as playing.

If you were to have it all over again, would there be anything that you might change?

No I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so thankful that I played in the era that I did. I’m also so fortunate to have played with the lads/characters in that period too. We trained hard, had lots of ups and downs but we were always able to have fun and have a laugh.

The game has evolved into a product and a commodity for the GAA. It’s all so serious that our modern managers and players are put under serious pressure to win. It’s a professional game without the players being paid.

What was your motivation to write your autobiography?

The reason why I wrote the book now is because I believe that the time is right. I didn’t see any of the other lads making a shape to tell the inside story so I decided that I would take the leap.

Next year 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of our 1992 success. With age the memory fades and I decided to document my story and a few stories about my colleagues before my memory slipped altogether.

I don’t want any of the lads to be concerned about what I’ve written. They should expect a bit of flack since I took plenty from them down the years!