Boot Room: Darran O'Sullivan - 'The Ó Sés would be notorious for messing with your boots'

"They would empty the bag at under-age training and let lads pick what they wanted."
Boot Room: Darran O'Sullivan - 'The Ó Sés would be notorious for messing with your boots'

Kerry's Darran O'Sullivan scores a goal with a backheel flick in the 2011 All Ireland quarter-final win over Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Darran O’Sullivan (Kerry), Adidas World Cups, 2011 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final backheel goal v Limerick

I wore Puma King and Adidas World Cups growing up but after that, it was all Adidas. When Bernard Brogan was with Warrior, a couple of pairs were sent to me but I couldn’t change from what I knew. The World Cups I would have worn first during my teens and when I was with the Kerry minors I wore Predator.

Kerry were an Adidas team going back years and it helped too that my soccer heroes were all Adidas — Zidane, Beckham. I’d be onto my dad about the Predators but he would be saying, “No, no, no, the real footballers wear World Cups and Puma Kings.” Now, I say he was trying to save himself a few bob too. 

After a game, and this would be going back to a few of my childhood years in London, I’d be out the back with a rough brush cleaning them and put the paper into them. As I got older and Kerry started giving me boots, I started taking them for granted. I would have never kept boots. Every couple of years, I would ball up all the gear that I wasn’t wearing from the shed, drop it up to the parents and tell them to bring it up to the club. They would empty the bag at under-age training and let lads pick what they wanted as long as they didn’t do the dog on it and everybody got something. 

I never held on to much. I see lads pulling out boots from 2003 and wondering how they still have them. I wore almost an all black pair for the 2017 All-Ireland junior club final but I hated them, they felt too plasticy and I never wore them after that. I offered them to the club for a fundraiser there recently but they said they were too good to be given away. 

In my Rosspoint restaurant, I have the Kerry jersey I wore as captain when we won the 2009 All-Ireland, the All-Ireland club jersey and my All-Star jersey. 

The Sés would be notorious for messing with your boots. You might pull out a new pair, they would say, “Oh, they’re nice, show me them.” You’d throw it over and they’d bend it as much as they could and start thumping it against the ball going, ‘Fuck it, these are strong, these are good.” All they wanted to do was ruin the newness of them on you. Laces would go missing a lot but they were usually the shoes you were wearing to go home. 

I started wearing the brighter boots in my latter years and I think it was in my last game for Kerry that I was wearing white ones. Éamonn Fitzmaurice says to me, “Jesus Christ, are you going on with them?” I said, “I’m going out with a bang.” It wasn’t much of a bang but that sticks in the mind. 

That and how quare I’d be about things in the dressing room. Even though I’m left-handed and left-footed, I’d put on my right sock and shoe first. Most of my superstitions were with where I sat. On the bus, I’d always have to sit in front of (Kieran) Donaghy: the third seat from the back on the right-hand side. In Croke Park, I’d always look for (Aidan O’) Mahony to sit beside. I don’t know what it was, a bit of comfort knowing they were there. I always carried way more than I needed. The weight of the bag used to be criminal. I’d have three sets of everything — three sets of boots in case I needed anything. Silly, really.

In conversation with John Fogarty

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