'GAA was a sport I knew very little about, but I knew the people that played it were f***ing nuts'
"It's an amateur sport and they take it so seriously, and the whole town gets behind it."
Two years on from his Gaelic football debut for Glenswilly, Shane Williams still marvels at his time with the Donegal club side, and in the village that follows their every move.
The former Wales and Lions legend headed over to Glenswilly in early 2017 as part of the AIB-devised show, The Toughest Trade. The concept was to swap a sporting star into another sporting world and see how they got on.
Donegal talisman headed to the South of France to train with Clermont Auvergne while Williams headed along to Murphy's club to give GAA a dart. He fared pretty well too, in biblical conditions, and scored 0-4 on his debut.
— Donna McBride (@donnamcb01) January 13, 2017
Williams was asked how much convincing he needed to headed over to the North West of Ireland to give GAA a whirl. Alex Payne, who was hosting the live House of Rugby event at Dublin's Aviva Stadium, bravely asked, "What is The Toughest Trade?" before quickly begging forgiveness when he realised it was a GAA question.
"The worst thing you could possibly have said," Williams remarked. "Us Gaelic footballers will know!"
Williams then told a class tale about his time in Donegal and how he left Glenswilly with a complete and utter respect for Gaelic football, and the village that welcomed him so openly.
"I didn't know much, to be fair. It was a sport that I knew very little about, but I knew the people that played it were f***ing nuts.
"So when I got approached, they said, 'There's a programme called Toughest Trade. They take a guy or lady from a certain sport, put them into a different sport and we kind of compare them to each other a see how it goes'.
"And they said, 'Have you ever played Gaelic football?' And I said, 'No, I'm from Wales, you know, to begin with. So, no'. And I went up to Donegal."
"Donegal," Williams continued, "which is the coldest f***ing place I've ever been to in my life. I turned up to training, there were about 40 guys there and I was like, 'Hi, I'm Shane, I can't wait to get started', an they didn't give a s**t who I was. and I knew straight away that this was going to be great.
"And the training was the hardest thing I've ever done, probably. These guys can run all day, can't they, in fairness. It's an amateur sport and they take it so seriously, and the whole town gets behind it.
"Straight away I knew that I had to up my game and sort myself out. I spent 10 days there, with some of the craziest bastards I've ever met in my life. The fact that they were working full-time... drinking full-time too, to be fair!
"And I realised that I really had to pick my game up and, em, at the end of the week, we had the game, which was a local derby, which might as well have been a Royal Rumble in the wrestling competition.
"I got there and they were like, 'Ah Shane we're ready to go now. They're not going to take it easy on you because they take it really seriously'. I was like, 'No problem, I'll have a go', whatever. So I went into the changing rooms and changed but, I don't know who ordered it but, the snow was coming sideways. It was f***ing freezing, let me tell you.
"Went out there, played the game and this guy next to me, on the way out, he says, 'Oh, it will be a pleasure playing against you'. He was shaking my hand. He was the nicest guy ever, until we started playing. He was the dirtiest bastard I've ever met in my life!"
— Gary Mc Daid (@GaryMcDaid78) January 12, 2017
"Off the ball," Williams continued, "we were having a chat, like. 'How's it going, like? How's the job going? How's the missus and the kids?'
"And he was like, 'All right, no problem but...' BANG... (elbows me) '... have that!' and then he'd piss off down the sideline. So, straight away I realised I had to have my game out and really give it a go.
"But it was a great experience. The guys and the whole village looked after me. It was probably one of the toughest sports I've played, and I'm not just saying that because I'm here.
"It was real hard. It was real hard. The snow was coming down sideways, no-one really gave a shit who Shane Williams was and I learned a lot in a short space of time. But, I tell you, what a town to be in. I've no f***ing idea where it is, to be honest!"
Shane Williams has as big a gift for storytelling as he did for blazing in tries during his rugby career.
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