Republic of Ireland and Everton defender Seamus Coleman played gaelic football with a successful Killybegs team that claimed county U12, 14, 16 and two minor titles before he signed for Sligo Rovers when he was 18.
With Donegal manager Jim McGuinness living half an hour up the road in Glenties, he’s been following the side’s progress closely.
“Gaelic’s a big part of my life. I’ve been to the Cork game and the Ulster final against Down,” he said.
“It’s not like I’m just keeping an eye on it. I’m a big follower of it. It’s hard to get away from it at home. Everyone is speaking about it and there’s a great buzz. The whole county gets right behind the team for this occasion and rightly so.
“The players have put in a lot of work over the last two years under Jim McGuinness so they deserve to be in the final.”
His admiration for McGuinness matches that of his county men.
“I met him a few times and he was over at a game. You can see his appetite is second to none. When you’re talking to him about football you can see his eyes light up and you can see he knows what he’s talking about. He deserves all the credit he is going to get.”
But Coleman’s love of the game isn’t just limited to Donegal. Every time he gets home he spends his Tuesday and Thursday evenings watching the club train.
“I never got away from it. It was a big part of my life and I really, really enjoy it. I go to all the games I can go to. I’ve great time for all the [Donegal] lads. I send them all a message after the games. It’s a credit to them all, they’ve got to go to work during the week, the effort they put in and the shape they’ve got themselves in.
“I’ve not seen a fitter inter-county team in a long, long time. I don’t think there’s ever been a team in such great physical shape. Win or lose they need serious credit for the work they have put in for amateur players. They go on certain diet plan. It’s a full-time job for them as well.”
But would he quit life as a Premier League footballer to be part of the panel this weekend?
“No. Gaelic was a big part of my life but I’d never swap the job I have. No disrespect, but this football has done me really well and I’ve achieved a lot of my dreams that I never thought I’d get. I’m fully behind the lads and will be their biggest fan on the day but I’m happy with the road I took.”
That journey led him to the Euros during the summer. With so much experience in his back pocket, he is primed to offer the players some advice. But he declines.
“My big games and their big games are different. Jim McGuinness is the man they’ll be taking advice from and listening to. It’s done them well so far and the less said from other people the better to just let the lads get on with it and manager get on with it.
“They’ve done well so far and hopefully after 70 minutes on Sunday they can lift Sam Maguire, which they deserve after the last two years they’re after putting in.”