Football can take you into some amazing places in the world, give you many memories and build so many friendships that last a lifetime.
I for one can count my lucky stars as I have experienced all of the above. I can’t think of many people who visited Georgia, South Africa, Lithuania, Ukraine or Iceland on holidays.
I was fortunate to experience these fantastic countries in all their splendours on behalf of the beautiful game. Football in all its glory and financial rewards can sometimes forget the lasting relationships that are built up along the journey.
After a very successful career in the UK the soccer community in Ireland is part of my new family and I want this family to blossom. Winning leagues and cups are important and I have sweated blood and tears to achieve both but it’s the relationships I have built up in the game that are my most prized possessions.
A very close friend of mine Robbie Lawlor called me during the week to see if I could help his daughter Ciara make some important decisions in her career. I was not only delighted to help Ciara out but more importantly hug a great friend and ex team mate in the process.
What value could I put on this recent chat? That value is priceless.
There can be big rivalries off the pitch; you only have to look at the recent Bohs v Rovers Dublin Derby to witness this escapade.
But in general the majority of players get on well with each other. If you pop down to any league match you are more than likely bound to meet an ex player, manager, coach or supporter to discuss the latest topics whether they are political, social or football related.
The football stadiums or local pitches are a breeding ground for social interaction and the odd pint or two. The football community plays a big part in helping people stay in touch and this sometimes gets overlooked when governments are handing out grants within the grassroots, amateur or professional game.
Friendships are vital for our social development and there are none better than in the football industry. I recently just got a call up for the Stoke City v Port Vale legends game that is being organised by Tony Naylor (an ex team mate) for a good charitable cause.
Other initiatives that help keep players in contact with each other are the over 35’s leagues set up across the Country and the Ireland over 40s international team.
I would like to point out to Mark O’Neill that I am now eligible to play for this newly formed International team and am awaiting the call up!
Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.
If you ever had any doubts that friends are one of the most important, if least understood, aspects of life, I hope this football article will convince you.
When it comes to happiness, your friends are the key. Bill Shankly the great Liverpool manager once said that football was more important than life.
While football has given me a great career and special memories I feel family and friends are more important. So get down to your local schoolboy, amateur or Airtricity League of Ireland game this weekend and have a chat with some old friends or indeed try to make some new friends.