Shane Williams on "going back to his roots" with Glenswilly
The Welsh winger is taking part in AIB's The Toughest Trade16:00 Tuesday 28 February 2017, 16:00 28 Feb 2017
Shane Williams is one of Wales' most successful players of the professional era, but his stint in Donegal was not his first time to play with amateurs.
The 39-year-old spent a week with Michael Murphy's club Glenswilly as part of AIB's The Toughest Trade. Murphy also swapped codes, joining Clermont Auvergne for a week.
"I played amateur, but not at a high level", Williams, said when asked about his previous amateur credentials. "When I finished school, I played three-quarters of a season for my local club which was a Division 4 amateur team. I found it quite easy. My coach told me half way through the season, 'We need to get you in a better team'... Within eight or nine months of playing amateur rugby, I signed my first professional contract with Neath. I know what the amateur era is about. Because of that, I have more respect for these guys."
Williams moved to Donegal for a week, and fell in love once more with the amateur ethos. As professionalism continues to creep its way into the GAA, the Welsh winger said their is still a place for the club game.
"What I saw with the club was the spirit in which the town had for this club and the respect the players. They give it their all. As well as training hard and playing hard these boys have to go to work and earn their crust. They're not getting paid to play and you can see that in the way they train and play. Their heart and soul is Glenswilly.
"I'm a romantic. I used to love the amateur side of it when players played for fun. Even now, at lower levels [in Wales], some players get paid to play for clubs. That baffles me."
The parochialism of club GAA is similar to what Wales was like in the amateur days, Williams added. Every game could be seen as a derby, and he was happy to see that once more in Donegal.
"Straight away when I got to Glenswilly, they were on about teams up the Glen. We played Convoy, and straight away the talk of the week was about winning the game... They took it really seriously. There is tribalism in it and rightly so. You don't want to lose that.
"Glenswilly used to borrow Convoy's pitch, because they had better floodlights. Even though were was a rivalry, there was a relationship there too... It was like going back to my roots, playing on a little bit of a muddy pitch, at night in the rain."
The conditions were the worst Williams said he played in in his career. A blizzard blew during Glenswilly's match with Convoy, where the former Lion impressed.
"I've played in sleet and snow, but nothing like that. It was bizarre. It was cold and windy going to the game. We changed in the dressing rooms, came out and it was white. You couldn't anything. I was like, 'Whats going on here?'"
Despite only staying for the week, Williams loved his time in the north-west. "It was a great end to a brilliant week. I had a fab time. The people of Donegal, and that area in Glenswilly really looked after."
You can see how he copes in the Glenswilly colours, in the Donegal snow, on Wednesday night on RTE 2 at 9.30pm.
All previous episodes of The Toughest Trade are free to view on AIB’s YouTube channel www.youtube.com/aib For exclusive content and behind the scenes action from The Toughest Trade follow AIB GAA on Twitter and Instagram @AIB_GAA and facebook.com/AIBGAA.
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