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Not so great calls it a day and retires from football

By Declan Bogue

This column should have been written a month ago but I decided to hold off on announcing that I, Declan Bogue of Tempo Maguires, am retiring at the age of 36.

I wanted Henry Shefflin, who recently announced his retirement from Kilkenny, to have his day in the sun. So there will be no press conference, no last farewell. If a testimonial is offered, I will graciously refuse.

I can recall ghostwriting a column with Brendan Devenney a few years ago. He was describing the moment he was forced into retirement when the renowned Dr Eanna Falvey at the Santry Sports Clinic told him that if he wanted to be able to play with his children, he had to immediately desist from playing football.

Coming back up the road, the tears were strolling down Devenney's face, so he pulled in on the hard shoulder of the motorway and cried his lamps out.

I can understand that now, and also understand how having the decision taken out of your hands can feel like a little death. Hence the grieving process.

I called up my manager to tell him that I was finding time tight - baby on the way, a move of house coming up, working weekends and all that. I also had to drive 40 minutes to and from training, more for matches. That pain in my hip from pressing in the clutch was becoming more than uncomfortable on the homeward journeys.

No lie, a little part of me hoped he might do more to convince me to stay on. Instead, the most he gave me was: "Sure, if you want to keep in shape you can keep coming to the odd session here and there."

I had invested in the year, telling myself it was the final hurrah, and I would give everything I could. I even bought the new training top with 'DB' across the shoulders, the new togs and the fancy new socks that don't even reach up as far as your calves.

If there was ever an item of GAA kit that shows the passage of time in the last two decades, it is the evolution of socks, for sure.

I appreciate that you don't get to hear these stories. Normally, you get the perspective of men who thrilled thousands of spectators. I merely mildly annoyed or exasperated a handful of fellow clubmen watching from the banks during low-profile Junior matches on a Saturday night.

What will you take from the game, Declan? Well, I probably have more jerseys than medals, having played for various outfits all over England, Australia, a season with a club in Down and an ill-advised spell with another club in Fermanagh which gets mentioned, oh, just about every time I go into the Tempo dressing room.

Sure, there was the odd triumph. Two under-12 blitzes at 'B' grade, an under-16 Division Two league title, a Conway Cup in London with Shannon Rovers/Sam Maguires and a New South Wales Championship that I bluffed along with Penrith Gaels until they lost patience with my patchy attendance at training.

But my main memory will always be Thomas Campbell attacking former county player Sean Breen in the Roslea showers with a fish he caught a few hours earlier. That day, he earned his nickname, 'Tommy Trout'.

Assessing my abilities is never easy, but I am fearless in saying that Pat Spillane's assessment of Francie Bellew back in 2002 could be applied to me, only on a junior level. Spillane said: "Francie Bellew is a very ordinary club footballer, lacking in pace. My mother would be faster than this fellow. And she has a little bit of arthritis on the knee."

Perhaps it should not even be up to me to give an assessment, but rather as a previous manager said at minor level, I have a fierce interest in it.

If you are familiar with how country people can damn with faint praise, then you will wince at how cutting that remark can be.

I must say, I didn't expect the weight gain so rapidly. This week last year, I tipped the scales at bang on 12 stone.

Yesterday, I climbed on that mocking apparatus only to see figures of 13st 3lb laughing back at me.

I may make a return next year in the colours of my new parish. I'll keep you updated anyway.

Belfast Telegraph


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