Niall Horgan has spent much of his adult working life in Dublin, but the thought of playing football for anyone other than his native St Nicholas was never an option.
This weekend, Horgan will travel down as the northsiders take on Nemo Rangers in the Cork SFC quarter-final in Páirc Uí Rinn (2pm). The love of the black and white has always been too strong for him to even consider transferring to a Dublin club.
“It is difficult, but I never wanted to move to a club here,” he says. “Much of the joy I get from playing football is from playing with Nick’s, to start it all again was never really an option.
“I’d be gutted if I wasn’t playing and if Nick’s got relegated, I’d feel that I could have done something to help.” Horgan’s work is in the marketing department of Twitter, where he is something of a rarity as an active GAA player.
“Bernard Brogan was running this Red Bull five-a-side GAA mixed thing last summer and, apart from one ladies footballer, I was the only GAA player!” he laughs.“It wouldn’t be your normal GAA job, that’s true. I do get odd looks when I’m asked what I’m up to for the weekend and I say I’m going down to Cork to play a GAA game. It’s hard for them to understand that it’s not like soccer or rugby, where you’d just transfer to the team down the road.
“That said, I couldn’t speak highly enough of the place. I’ve been here just over three years, there were literally 10 people in a small room when I started, now there are more than 250. It has been great to see that growth, it’s a very interesting and creative place to work.”
While work involves building a still-young brand, on the field it’s about maintaining the strong tradition of Nick’s. Formed in 1901, they have never not been senior, though in recent years they have sailed close to the wind.
External pre-season predictions of battles against relegation serve to galvanise the squad, though.
“We’re all realistic, we know we’re not the best footballing team around or the most technically gifted players, but it is tough every year to be just kind of written off,” Horgan says.
“It definitely stays with you. You want to prove to yourself as players that you should be playing senior, the club is — without a doubt in my mind — definitely a senior club, almost the longest-standing senior club.
“One of the first words I’d use describing the team is ‘character’. In the last few years, it has been tough. In terms of numbers, we’d have fewer than others so you’re very reliant on a small group of players and there are cons, but the pros are that you’re very tight-knit, you fully trust everyone there with you and you know that, when it comes down to it, we’ll fight for each other.
“Now, we’re beginning to see the fruits of underage success and the squad has grown, it’s the direction we want to be going. We wanted to lay a marker this year and not be in a relegation dogfight, as we have been in recent years.”
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