"Part of this is for Jerry, and I won't be letting emotions get the better of me"
When Jerry Kiernan told a young John Travers to get out of his sight and not to bother coming back, it was exactly what the Donore Harriers athlete needed to hear.
A prodigious talent who'd romped through the underage ranks, Travers was slowly but surely losing his way. Kiernan had no sympathy and when the youngster pulled out of their first training session, three miles into a six mile run, the legendary coach was only delighted to light on him.
"I was humming and hawing whether I really wanted to do it at the time," Travers tells SportsJOE now.
"I had just started in AIT on my sports scholarship so I was always doing a bit, but there were days I was just doing a six minute jog and then going home."
Six minute jogs wouldn't cut it under Kiernan's watch and as the legs got heavy, Travers pulled up holding a hamstring.
"Dermot McDermott got me down to Dublin one of the days, I didn't really want to be there at all but I needed that toughness from Jerry. He told me to get lost when I could only do the 3 miles.. He was very abrupt in the sense that, he was like, 'don't be coming back here wasting my time. I was like 'Jesus,' I have to come back just because he told me I can't! I was one of those stubborn, immature sort of lads at the time."
Sometimes a kick on the arse beats a clap on the back.
"Slowly but surely, he changed me. It was that bit of tough love that I needed."
It's ten years on from their clash at the career cross-roads and on Saturday, Travers will compete in his fifth European indoors in the 3000m event. It's his first major championship without his beloved coach, who passed away in January, but Kiernan's distinctive voice of reason lives on in Travers' heart and mind. It's made him the runner, and the man he is today.
"I went from that inconsistent, lazy fecker to a runner who was putting races back to back... This is my fifth European indoors so he's obviously taught me a lot along the way!"
In the last ten years, Travers has won nine national senior titles. He's ran a 3.55 mile and consistently, he's been Ireland's most competitive long distance runner. He's also become a father, made the move from Dublin to Sligo and took up a full-time job as a special needs assistant.
"I'm settled here. I won't be heading back to Dublin any time soon anyway," he says matter-of-factly.
"Dublin was just always too busy and too stressful for me. It's a much more laid back life here. In Dublin, if you were fifteen minutes from a track, it would take you an hour to get there! Here it only takes the fifteen minutes."
Spoken with a straightness Jerry Kiernan would be proud of.
"When I'm training, my head's in it and when I'm back in the house I'm a family man or a working man. It works well for me and I think it really benefits my running..."
After Kiernan's passing, it was natural for Alan McCormack - husband of cross country great Fionnuala - to step in as Travers' full-time coach. He'd always conferred with Kiernan about the Dubliner's sessions and races anyway, and the transition has been smooth.
"Alan just told me 'I'll look after you and we'll see how things go.' I'm very grateful that he did that for me because I know he's a very busy man. I haven't had to change much because he's very like Jerry in that sense..."
So as the clock ticks to race day, there may be a hole in Travers' heart but there's a voice in his head.
"He was always a simple man. Get in a good position. Leave everything you have inside you out on the track..."
"I've a good motivation behind me for this weekend. Part of this is for Jerry, and I won't be letting the emotions getting the better of me..."