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'I was very close to Dave through my time in UCD' - Westmeath star on help with AFL career

Sigerson Cup winner John Heslin on the late Dave Billings.

WESTMEATH STAR JOHN Heslin has revealed how helpful the advice of the late Dave Billings was for him during his brief Australian Rules career.

Heslin returned in early 2012 after a short stint with AFL outfit Richmond and was the man-of-the-match last Saturday as UCD ended a 20-year wait for Sigerson Cup glory.

Westmeath attacker Heslin, who kicked six of UCD’s 10 points in the narrow final win over DCU, admitted he was particularly close to Billings who passed away last April.

“Look, we didn’t really talk about it as a team, that we were going to go out and ‘do this for Dave’ or anything like that but it was always on the back burner of course,” said Heslin.

“Personally, I was very close to Dave through my time in UCD. He helped me out with a lot of things.

“Not only was he the head of GAA but he was also a friend. I was offered the chance to go to Australia to play Aussie Rules and I spoke to Dave on a number of occasions about what to do and what was his advice and even when I was coming back, he was delighted to hear that I was coming back to UCD.

“I can’t reveal the whole conversation we had but he didn’t want me to go at the start but then when he put his non-UCD hat on he just gave me a bit of life advice that only someone who has been through as much as he had could give you.

“It was an insightful conversation and that’s what people like himself were there for.”

Launch of the GAA.ie website John Heslin at yesterday's launch of the new GAA website Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Heslin said he enjoyed the experience of playing alongside Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey, the reigning footballer of the year, for UCD.

The PhD student, 23, said that life is generally good in Ireland, on and off the field, and that he has no regrets about returning in 2012 from Australia.

“I was only 19 at the time,” said Heslin. “My college education was very important to me and that played a big part in my decision to come home.

“I had only two years done of college but I ended up getting a first in my degree and I’m doing a doctorate now. So things didn’t turn out too bad.

“It depends on the circumstances. Anyone I have spoken to, and I spoke to Colin O’Riordan and a couple of lads in the last while, I just said, ‘you have to go. You’ll never regret going but, me, I would have regretted not going’.”

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