Kevin McGourty will be a central figure when St Gall’s step up their pursuit of All Ireland club football glory this season.
He could walk onto any county team in Ireland and only recently Mickey Harte said he was the one player he would be interested in if the GAA ever allowed county players to be transferred.
“If Mickey Harte said that, then it’s a wonderful compliment. He will always be a great in the GAA, someone I’ll always look up to.
“Over a period of time I wrote a number of articles saying I really admired and respected the way Mickey came back after the tragic deaths of both Cormac McAnallen and Paul McGirr.
“Personality wise Mickey and I are like chalk and cheese, but we are still GAA men through and through,” he said.
There are few more articulate or passionate footballers than McGourty, a man determined to tell it as it is, something that doesn’t always endear him to his elders or indeed referees.
He won’t win too many prizes for his diplomacy, but that’s the least of his concerns.
He insists that he’s no more than an average footballer except that he puts a lot more thought into the way he plays the game, but in saying that he’s selling himself short.
“I would consider myself a very open person. I’m never slow to express an opinion especially if it’s something I feel strongly enough about.
“I’m not going to say I’ve no regrets in life, but certainly I’ve no regrets about my time in football.
“People have their own opinions, but that’s all water off a duck’s back to me. My main concern is how both my club St Gall’s and myself perform.
“West Belfast where I live is going through some particularly economically hard times and it’s worth remembering that both our club and the GAA in general has played a massive role in keeping people’s spirits up and in some cases keeping people alive.”
He jokes that he spent seven years at Queen’s University, four being educated and three educating the other students. For a young lad from west Belfast university life was a real eye opener.
It wasn’t just the football. The whole Queen’s experience was something else, meeting people from all arts and parts of Ulster understanding their likes and dislikes about Irish society and the GAA.
He claims he wasn’t academically bright, but he made it to university despite failing his 11 plus. Delighted that Catriona Ruane is now trying to change the system, he’s still not sure she’s going about it the right way.
Just 19, it was a dream come true when he found himself playing Sigerson football alongside some of the top names in GAA including the late, lamented Cormac McAnallen.
After getting his degree, he then worked for three years at Queen’s, elected by the students to be their representative for sports, becoming the first person to be elected to the same office three years in a row.
For him winning Sigerson after losing two previous finals was an unforgettable experience.
“I remember the day after we won it chatting to Sean O’Neill. He told me how it was very low key when they won it for the first time in 1958, but when we managed to get our hands on the trophy everyone was genuinely delighted for us and there was a great buzz around the entire campus.
“It’s a theme I want to hammer home to the boys in St Gall’s that if we can capture the All Ireland on St Patrick’s Day then it’s something nobody can take from us.”
At the start of the great JFK movie by Oliver Stone back in the early 90’s, there’s a wonderful line “To sin by our silence makes cowards out of men.”
There’s no chance of that happening to the 26-year-old McGourty. Football and Queen’s University have been a huge part of his life and who knows politics might even play a more prominent role in the year ahead after his decision to join Fianna Fail.