JOHN Devine has played his part in some of the biggest days in Tyrone footballing history, but that hasn’t numbed him from the simple pleasures of giving something back to his club.
He retired from intercounty football in March 2013 – less than half a year after Errigal Ciaran’s most recent O’Neill Cup triumph – and he’s still a valued member of the Errigal squad even though Darragh McAnenly has a vice-like grip of the number one starting jersey at the moment.
Devine, who is on the cusp of a fourth senior championship medal, says the authenticity of the club scene is something to be celebrated.
“There’s a life outside county football and I remember when I retired, it took a wee while to adjust to it.
“But there’s an honesty to it, and an enjoyment that you get some playing club football and training with the boys you’ve grown up with, and that’s something I really cherish.
“It’s where everything starts and where everything ends, but for myself it’s always been the biggest thing.”
Devine was Tyrone’s first-choice goalkeeper during their maiden All- Ireland winning year in 2003, but at times – but only at times, mind you – he played second fiddle to his longterm rival Pascal McConnell.
He never threw the toys out of the pram, however, and he knows only too well the important role that sub goalkeepers play in training.
“It’s easy to be playing football all the time, starting all the time, but sometimes your role changes.
“It’s very easy being positive and being a driving force and being a leader when you’re playing, but when you’re not playing, I think that’s when you really need to show your character.
“At the minute I’m getting behind Darragh and he’s full merit for starting. He’s an excellent goalkeeper, as is his younger brother Conor, and those boys are a delight to play with.
“They make coming to training and playing games that much easier, because they have such a desire and gra for goalkeeping itself.”
Devine was part of a generation of goalkeeper whose signature move was to leather the ball down the middle from kick-outs.
The position has been revolutionised during the last decade, particularly at intercounty level, but Devine says Errigal aren’t necessarily stuck in their ways.
“I can see the value in playing that way, but we play the way that works for us.
“If something opens up to do, we can do it, we wouldn’t be a closed book on that.
“It is great to see goalkeeping evolving and changing, but when I started playing, it was a different game.
“I would have played outfield at U16, Minor and U21, but the way I looked at it as a young lad, I seemed to win more medals playing goals, so I just stuck to that.
“It soon became a passion and something that I really enjoyed improving and getting better at.”
Devine also had warm words for Errigal talisman Peter Harte, who overcame a tough day out against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final to shine in this season’s club championship.
“Anyone in Errigal will tell you how high regard we hold Petey in as a person and as a player.
“If you look back at the All-Ireland semi-final, that was a tough game for Petey, but he showed us what he can do, and he has been showing us now for so long.
“He’s quality, he always has been for us, and we’re glad to have him.”
Devine isn’t the only experienced head still plugging away for Errigal Ciaran, and he hopes they still have something to offer.
“There’s the likes of myself and Davy Harte and Tommy Hackett, the three elder statesmen of the group, and you just try to use your experience to tell boys how important it is where we are now, you pass on some bits of advice.
“When we were starting out at 18 years of age, we had the likes of Pascal, Peter, Hugh Quinn, Eoin Gormley, those guys were still playing.
“They kept us right, and it’s amazing that those years have flown by and now we’re the guys who are trying to pass on experience to the younger boys that are coming through now.”
“When you’re not playing, I think that’s when you really need to show your character.”