Alfie Stewart looks back on his glittering Irish League career with immense pride and he loves revisiting the golden memories.
The medals mean something. There's deep personal satisfaction when footballers become winners, but Alfie kept his eye on the bigger picture and it blew him away.
When Portadown celebrated the club's first league title in 1990, more than a trophy was lifted. It raised the spirits of the surrounding community.
"I love talking to fans about my career and it's great to have those memories," says Alfie, who lives in Magherafelt.
"Even as a part-time footballer, you could bring real joy to the community and my abiding memory with Portadown was the impact winning the title in 1990 had on the community and surrounding villages.
"I remember we had an open top lorry around Portadown after losing the Irish Cup final and I felt a bit down, but we were completely blown away by the community spirit, celebration and joy. The players still talk about that today. You think about the history of it all and how it shook up the Irish League scene."
But while his sporting talent helped to lift a community, Alfie has suffered immense personal loss in his life.
In October 2008 his wife Lorraine tragically lost her life while driving on the outskirts of Randalstown. Their two children, Aaron and Alana, then aged 18 and 16, were with their mother and excitement was building ahead of her son's appearance for Ballymena United against Linfield at Windsor Park that day.
Lorraine very rarely went to see Alfie play, but she made a special effort to follow Aaron's career until her sudden passing that horrific day, aged 42.
Devoted Christian Alfie relied on his family and faith to help him emerge from the darkness.
"I was involved with Ballymena United reserves at the time and I was in Belfast the day Lorraine passed away," said Alfie, who will turn 57 in October.
"It wasn't an accident, more sudden death syndrome while she was at the wheel.
"Aaron and Alana, aged 18 and 16, were with her that day and Lorraine was driving Aaron down to the Linfield game.
"It was going to be Aaron's sixth appearance for the first team. To experience that as young kids, to lose their mum like that, was very difficult for them and us all, it was a horrible time for the next months and years. I'm a man of great faith, a Christian, and that was the source of my strength as well as the kids. My faith in God started back in 1987 and that was a comfort and help to me.
"These trials can test your faith, it's human nature. I can remember that day I said to the doctor in hospital, 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord' and that's it in a nutshell. God gave me everything and everything that is taken away from us is the same.
"Many people are faced with different problems and situations in their life and we have seen that with the Covid-19 pandemic too."
Alfie, who was born in Maghera, has since remarried and like anyone who has lost a loved one, he has found a way to live with loss.
"Thankfully, the family is well today nearly 13 years on," he reflected. "Lorraine was very quiet, a great mother and loving wife. The reverberations of that throughout the whole network of family and friends was significant. The impact on everyone who knew her was incredible.
"I knew her from before I played in the Irish League and I think she only went to two of my games in 20 years, two Irish Cup finals, but when Aaron began to play she was desperate to watch him. You learn to live with the grief. I am remarried to Ruth Anne and she also had a great tragedy when she lost her husband and daughter in a car accident. Grief comes to us all and you can only learn to live with the loss. It's a hard road, some days are harder, but I thank God he has kept me going."
Aaron, now 31, walked away from football at the age of 25. His passion for the game faded away.
"Aaron was at Ballymena from 11 years of age to 25," said Alfie. "He recovered from an injury, but he decided during his time out that he wasn't missing it and he didn't go back to it.
"People ask me was I annoyed by that, but if he wasn't 100 per cent committed to Irish League football he was doing the right thing.
"He wouldn't take money as a professional for doing a second-rate job and he has turned down opportunities to return. His main sport is playing cricket with me at our local club in the summer."
Alana, now 28, has given Alfie grandfather status, with Daniel (3) and Nathan (1) added to the family.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a mental health challenge for everyone and the Shamrock Park legend enjoyed engaging with supporters.
"It was a great initiative by the Ports fans to get former players to reconnect with fans," said Alfie. "It was great to hear their voices and chat about old times. It was the 30th anniversary of our first league title win last year and it was nice to give people encouragement. It was also an opportunity for me to thank fans for their support. I was at Portadown for 10 seasons and won 10 trophies, but it wasn't always good times. In football you get ups and downs and the supporters were brilliant to me."
Ask him to swap his career for a chance to play in the modern game and Alfie will say forget it.
He had four Irish Cup winners medals by the age of 23. He had 10 years at Shamrock Park, picking up three league titles and winning the double in 1991.
He played in special teams, with big personalities and in electric atmospheres.
"I've no regrets whatsoever," he said. "I thank God for the health and strength that I enjoyed for many years to play the game and the many people I encountered both on and off the field has been a great blessing. I look back now in my old age and think about the trophies that got away, but I think that's common amongst old pros.
"It's 30 years ago since that double with Portadown. We had won the league at the end of March and it was incredible. I was very fortunate to be going for four trophies in the one season with Portadown, a feat which I had achieved three years earlier with the Glens. So I played in two great teams with special players and the experience helped the second time round.
"Glenavon and Portadown had shaken the league up. There was an incredible vibrancy about the game when I played. The crowds were huge, the Big Two games had 15,000 plus and that's pretty intense. I wouldn't swap that time."
Alfie hit 14 goals in 239 games over six seasons with Glentoran and was transferred to Portadown in 1988 after being named Player of the Year. He loved playing for the Glens and that's why his departure from the east Belfast giants hit him hard.
"My departure from The Oval was a real wrench," he said. "I never envisaged that day as I was immensely happy playing my football there.
"A new contract was offered to me which was, in my opinion, derogatory so I refused to sign. I was more than disappointed with the approach of the club when I was told to basically take it or leave it. Back in 1988 there was no freedom of contract and a club could hold your registration and keep you out of football if an offer from another club wasn't satisfactory. Portadown were bold and brave enough to take it to a tribunal, but it was a gamble that was made easier for me knowing Ronnie McFall and his desire to sign me to build his new force at Portadown."
During his time with the Ports, Alfie rejected a chance to join Middlesbrough.
"We played Boro in a pre-season friendly and I had a very good game," he added. "Ronnie informed me that Bruce Rioch was more than interested in signing me immediately. It was something that myself and my late wife Lorraine had discussed previously and agreed that life was very good in every way and we wouldn't want to disrupt it.
"Family, church, friends and work all came into the equation and I have absolutely no regrets. It would have been nice to be tested at that level, but how can I complain with the career I had?"
Alfie's football career, which began at Roy's Chicks, managed by Kenny Shiels' father Roy, gave him many highs, but the first title with Portadown was special for several reasons.
"It was a club starved of success, I was signed to deliver that success and we succeeded," he said. "It was such a wonderful feeling to achieve the unthinkable at Portadown and more so because I was ridiculed and mocked because it was suggested that I moved to the Ports for money alone. I think I proved to many that my passion and motivation was winning trophies. The joy experienced that day at Shamrock Park was quite extraordinary."
Gerry Mullan at Glentoran and Ronnie McFall at Portadown were huge positive influences.
"Gerry was a terrific mentor to me at Glentoran, my great friend and team-mate who continually offered advice, warnings, encouragement and praise," added Alfie. "Young players need to listen to the right people and Gerry looked after a young Alfie as we travelled the country in his car.
"Ronnie believed in a skinny kid who had little more than raw passion when he first saw me.
"I played for Ronnie at the Glens and Ports, something like 13 seasons. He was a character and wonderful judge of a player. He could identify what he needed and then get the player.
"He wasn't the best coach in the world, he'd be the first to tell you that, but he was a great team builder. He signed quality players and simply let them play."
As for the big characters and Irish League giants, there were many.
"So many to choose from," said the former no-nonsense centre-back. "Steve Cowan, Gary McCartney, Gerry Mullan as strikers. Joey Cunningham, Paul Doolin, Billy Caskey, Jim Cleary as midfielders. Brian Strain, Alan Harrison, Gregg Davidson, John Devine as defenders. That list could include so many more. Toughest opponent in the Irish League was Billy Murray when on song against a young raw left-back. A frightening experience."
When Liverpool fan Alfie left Portadown in 1998, he joined Coleraine and had spells with Moyola Park and Ballymena United. His 21 medals include five Irish Cups and four league titles.
Football, faith and family still mean everything to a man who has shown immense strength and resilience on and off the pitch.