John Giles dropped into Thursday's Off The Ball where he recalled his games of football on the street playing with a 'bouncer.'
With the launch of Stuart Byrne's song 'The Game We all Love" on Friday's OTB AM, an ode to his love of football. Giles remembered how his footballing foundations were laid on the streets of North Dublin.
"The fact we came from a poor neighbourhood didn't matter, it was brilliant"
John Giles is telling us about the joy of playing street football in Dublin in his youth @paddypower https://t.co/74F0JbbBzK
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) February 25, 2021
"I don't know what we would have done without football,' recalled Giles of his childhood.
"We used to play with a 'bouncer' it was about twice the size of a tennis ball.
"I went on to be a professional footballer and a few of the lads who used to play in the Square went on to become League Of Ireland players too, the Byrne brothers.
"We used to have about 14 of us playing seven-a-side. It was an ideal situation and circumstances to become a professional footballer. Now obviously, I didn't know it at the time, I was only out playing for fun.
"You hear the Brazilians say 'you make a friend of the ball.' Well, we played with this 'bouncer' and you had to control it and control it well.
"It was harder to control than a proper football and it was coming off the railings, it was coming off the paths so you had to react to it," said John of the improvised ball he and his pals pooled pennies to pay for.
Giles friends for life
The football games in the North inner city didn't only shape Giles' life path, it also provided lifelong friends.
"I don't know what we would have done as a group of players without it," wondered the Leeds legend.
"I am still pals with lads that were brought up in Ormond Square, we lived for playing football every day.
"We had nothing else to do and there were no cars around then and it was away from the main streets. So you could play on one of the four sides of the square until one of the neighbours told you to 'clear off', so you just move to a different side!"
The game and its location on Ormond Square gained a reputation as Dublin youngsters would come from other areas to play.
"There were lads who played in the matches that didn't come from the Square," John said.
"They came from different neighbourhoods but they came over to us because they knew there was football there. We'd play every day.
"There was nothing else to do. I don't know what mischief we would have gotten into if it had not been for football."
Lifelong football bond
Despite the obvious hardship of life in the city at that time, Giles clearly loved it and forged a lifelong bond to the game, and even in some cases the ball.
"It was ideal from my point of view, "according to the former Ireland manager.
"I went on to be a professional footballer. It was ideal training to become a player because you had to control this ball.
"I used to keep the ball because I lived on Ormond Square and then I could go out and practice before the lads turned up. That's the way it was, it was football, football, football, morning 'til night. We never got fed up of it."
The practice paid off as John also revealed he played at under-14 for six years, starting at age eight.