'It cut me to the bone': The meeting that changed everything for Kildare's longest-serving player

Former Lilywhites captain Eamonn Callaghan opens up about a pivotal talk with Kieran McGeeney on our Life Changing Moments podcast series with UPMC – the Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA.

WE’VE TEAMED UP with UPMC – Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA – to produce a brand new Life Changing Moments podcast series.

Over an eight-week period, legendary former GAA players will open up about key performances that helped shape their illustrious careers and change their lives – on and off the pitch. 

EAMONN CALLAGHAN SPENT 17 years lining out with the Kildare footballers and held the record for the county’s most championship appearances when he called it a day in 2018. 

The former Lilywhites captain made his debut back in 2003, but it wasn’t until halfway through his inter-county career that he really upped his game and began performing to his full potential. 

As the latest guest on the podcast, the Naas clubman reveals to The42 GAA editor Fintan O’Toole that the turning point was a meeting with then-Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney in 2010. 

eamonn-callaghan-celebrates-his-goal Callaghan celebrating his goal in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It wasn’t a match or a moment in a game, it was something that happened outside of football,” Callaghan says. 

“I had a meeting with Kieran McGeeney back in 2010 that really changed the way I played football, the way I approached football… everything.

“I would have been 27 and had played with Kildare for maybe seven or eight years. I think that was the whole point of the chat. I started most games but he thought I wasn’t doing enough. He felt there was a lot more in me and I could be a better player for the team.

“Looking back on it, he was right. I was probably floating around for the first few years but he really changed my mentality.”

The meeting took place at McGeeney’s apartment in Dublin and the straight-talking Armagh man — an All-Ireland winner as a player — didn’t sugar-coat the truth. 

“I was kind of summoned to his house,” Callaghan adds. “He met the players one-on-one a lot, so I didn’t think it would be anything different until I got there.

“I was marched upstairs to a room that was like a GAA shrine. It was an office, but he had the whole wall covered in photos of All-Irelands and Sam Maguire. I was thinking ‘Jesus, this is something else to have in your house’.

“He went through me bit by bit and didn’t hold back about things I was doing and wasn’t doing. I just sat there and took it for however long we were there.

“We wrote down on a big flip chart things about how I trained and played and said there was a lot more I should have been doing.

He gave me the four or five pages and I went home with them. The thing about Kieran is he is very honest. I knew that when I was leaving that I would have to act on it.

“There were a couple of points that cut me to the bone and that I wasn’t happy with but I just had to concentrate on doing as he told me. I believed he was trying to do the right thing for me, and that changed my whole approach.”

For the full interview, click the Soundcloud button at the top of the article or subscribe to The42 wherever you get your podcasts.

kieran-mcgeeney Kieran McGeeney during his time as Kildare manager. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

UPMC, Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA, has been providing expert healthcare in the South East since 2006. UPMC’s operations in Ireland include UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford, UPMC Kildare Hospital in Clane, the UPMC Carlow Outreach Centre, UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre radiotherapy with locations at UPMC Whitfield and in Cork, and the UPMC Concussion Network. For more information on how UPMC provides life changing medicine to communities across Ireland, visit www.upmc.ie

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