Up to last year, I was still wearing them and they’re still in my Plunketts’ gearbag. I was just comfortable in them. I probably should have changed them a couple of years ago but they’d certainly be ones I’ll be keeping.
I have a bag in the attic with loads of jerseys I’d have collected through the years and there are a couple of pair of boots there too. Some day, the kids will be up there and they might dig it out the same as I did with my old man’s with all the old Dublin, Kerry, and Offaly tops from the seventies.
I wore Adidas from underage onwards. They were the most important part of your attire so you’d be particular about them. You’d never wear a fresh pair but if they were new ones you’d be breaking them in once or twice before a game. You’d need a couple of pairs depending on the pitch and for Croke Park or if we were training in St David’s or UCD back in the 2000s you’d need a pair of mouldies. Decisions like that could be last-minute for me. I’d often go out for the start of a training session or even a match wearing a pair and then decide on another pair.
I wasn’t insecure as a footballer, I was always confident in my abilities, but at times I was insecure about the boots I was wearing. I remember against Kerry in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, they hammered us, I think I kicked five wides and I never wore those boots again. It’s funny, you can blame a pair of boots for mishaps as well, even though it’s more down to your technique or whatever but so many things play on footballers’ minds.
I’m a size 10, Bernard and Paul are size 11s so they could never borrow mine. The endorsement deal with Adidas was great; you’d be getting lots of gear from them and even now there is still some of it knocking around me ma’s house. Every now and again, you’d get a WhatsApp from her, “Who owns these? Get them out of here!”
At various stages, I would have got different things like Áth Cliath and my name stitched onto the boots. As I got older, I didn’t look for that as much. I always tried to have some blue for obvious reasons and then with the socks I’d have to make sure they were coordinated, either with the sky blue or navy. All these things went through my head and I know they did for other fellas too.
Before I started strapping my ankles, I always wore a second pair of socks. I suffered a bit with blisters too as a lot of fellas do during the summer when they’re playing on harder surfaces like Croke Park so I used to have to strap my toes. As the years went on, the socks became more important. When I started in 2002, there were just the regular O’Neills socks then the short socks came out and then the anti-blister ones. It’s all about the comfort.