McGee happy to be 'a good ancestor' in retirement
Published 09/08/2016 | 02:30
Eamonn McGee says he will "put the head on the pillow and sleep easy" after becoming the third Donegal player to confirm his retirement from inter-county football in the wake of Saturday's quarter-final defeat to Dublin.
McGee follows Colm McFadden and Rory Kavanagh out the door in a sharp exodus that is expected to continue in the coming weeks as Donegal prepare for a new era.
The Gaoth Dobhair defender turned his career around in 2011 when he reversed an original decision to refuse an invitation to join Jim McGuinness' squad on the cusp of a football revolution.
He said yesterday it was the best decision he made, not just for his football career but his life.
"I'm glad that Jim came back to me. Only for he came back to be and put me on that route, I was going down a bad route," admitted McGee. "I'd be struggling to play senior club football now
"In terms of football it turned my life around but turned my life around off the field too. It's been a great journey. I'm a happy man that I did get a chance to do that."
McGee chose to give notice of retirement in a somewhat cryptic way, posting a passage from Lord of the Rings on Twitter to make the connection.
But it emerged that he made the decision to retire much earlier in the year, with the birth of his daughter eight weeks ago giving further closure.
"I discussed it with the people that matter. I had my decision made fairly early in the year. It's a massive commitment and then Daisy was born eight weeks ago. It's not really fair on the people around," he explained.
"I feel it's the right time. I look back on one of the 1992 team and I just remember he played on for too long. In my eyes it tarnished his career a wee bit and he was an amazing player," he said.
"I've wanted to be able to go out on my own terms, I've had a relatively good year and I'm just happy to go out and put the head on the pillow and sleep easy.
"Given where we came from, we promised so much at the start, we just never really filled the potential. We thought we had missed the boat and for it all to come then in the latter stages of your career, it was just so satisfying because we had seen some tight days and some tight defeats.
"We've dined at the top table, we fought hard to get up there and whatever they say about our tactics and whatever negative perception of Donegal people have you still have to respect what we did and the effort that we put in. There are still some magical footballers there."
The 2014 All-Ireland loss to Kerry was the "big" regret, but McGee feels a decent legacy has been left.
"In that book about the All Blacks one of the rules is to be a good ancestor. We've left Donegal in a good spot," he said.
"There are great lads coming up and hopefully now we can tap into the 2012 win and that conveyor belt can keep going. You can't beat that tradition. If we can keep that going, we can stay up at the top table for some time to come.
"We didn't really maximise the '92 win as a county. The county board rested on their laurels. Hopefully we'll get more out of the 2012 team, get more young people interested in the game.
"We've been getting minor teams to All-Ireland semi-finals and finals. If we do that every year we'll eventually get into the tradition Kerry have. They just assume they're going to be there every year."