Boot Room: John Heslin - 'I treat my boots as if they were my children'

"It’s all about the sweet strike; you don’t see a golfer hitting a ball with dirty grooves."
Boot Room: John Heslin - 'I treat my boots as if they were my children'
John Heslin celebrates after scoring Westmeath’s winning goal against Meath in the 2015 Leinster SFC semi-final.                     Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
John Heslin celebrates after scoring Westmeath’s winning goal against Meath in the 2015 Leinster SFC semi-final.  Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

John Heslin (Westmeath) Nike Tiempo Legend V FG. 2015 Leinster SFC semi-final winning goal v Meath.

I had a fascination with boots growing up and I’d say it’s the same with a lot of footballers. It doesn’t go away. The GPA are very good in ensuring we receive boots and gear and the day you get them you’re as excited as you would when you were 14 and opening the shoebox.

My parents were great looking after me with them — it was always the first thing on the Christmas list. I was always keen on the real leather boot — there are a lot out there that have a synthetic feel.

When I came into the Westmeath senior team, I was wearing the more old-school boots like the Copa Mundials/World Cups. You could never go too wrong with them but I started wearing the Nike Tiempos when I was in Australia and I find it hard to change from them now because they’re so comfortable. Anything that you feel gives you a couple of extra yards in speed or distance, you’ll take.

Because they tended to be expensive, down through the years I’d look after my boots well. I’d have my can of dubbin and my can of polish and I would have the boots safe under the stairs in the house. I’d have the newspaper inside them to keep them right — I’d be treating them as if they were my children.

The pocket money for every chore I did on the farm at home went towards a new pair of boots. As things got more serious, you’d have to have a pair for the soft ground, the hard ground and the ground in between. I would have had my soccer boots and my football boots. The soccer boot was a bit more flashy and my father’s advice was to go with the World Cups in Gaelic football — “you want to stick out because of your football, not your boots,” he’d say.

Dessie Dolan always wore Puma and I’d had an odd pair myself but I never took to them like he did although he had a sponsorship with them. Declan O’Sullivan was a great man for the World Cups. Soccer-wise, nearly everyone was wearing black Predators in 2004/05 with the red tongue, white sole and the red blades. I think Seán Óg Ó hAilpín had them too.

I’d find it hard to play in a pair of boots that I hadn’t trained in. I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, I’m kicking well in these boots, I have to play in these.” That would be as much superstition in my head. The other side of it is, as a freetaker, you’re that bit more attentive to your boots and confidence is obviously generated by yourself but it extends to the boot you wear too. I do try and make sure they’re looking well on the day, that there’s a bit of a shine.

It’s all about the sweet strike; you don’t see a golfer hitting a ball with dirty grooves.

- In conversation with John Fogarty

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