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'Just give me the ball and I’ll do the rest' - Conor McGregor's pre-UFC career as an amateur football star

Goal.com logo Goal.com 14-06-2017

Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather. August 26, 2017. The biggest fight in history.

In a few months' time, Conor McGregor will be stepping out of his mixed martial arts comfort zone and taking on five-division boxing world champion Floyd Mayweather. Having conquered the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Irishman is ready to take on his biggest challenge yet. A boxing contest will not be a major stretch from his usual UFC fights, but McGregor has already proved himself adept at multiple sports.

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Long before he was UFC Lightweight Champion or Featherweight Champion, McGregor showed his skills as an amateur footballer. In his native Dublin, he lined out in both the United Churches League and Leinster Football League with Slievenamon United and Yellowstone Celtic, and was a self-proclaimed 'goal machine'.

Former manager Robbie Beakhurst recalls how the wiry striker was potent in front of goal and easily could have progressed up the ranks in the footballing world if his fighting career had not taken priority.

“He played for me with a club called Slievenamon United when we played in the UCFL. He was a striker and was our top scorer every year," Beakhurst told the JSP .

"I took over Yellowstone Celtic and took him with me and again he was scoring for fun on a weekly basis.

“He used to just say to the rest of team ‘just give me the ball and I’ll do the rest’ – he was a smashing player but we had a decent team. As he got more involved in the MMA he couldn’t make matches and we allowed him to skip training.”

David Glennon had also managed McGregor during his spell at Yellowstone, but saw him disappear once he started to become more involved in MMA.

"He was always a bit more interested in MMA, but he would have certainly been one of the fittest on the team," Glennon told the Herald.

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"I think he played for a year, maybe two, just before we broke up the Saturday side. The first year he was generally down with us all year, but in the second, you'd be lucky to get him in once a week, because he got more into the MMA.

"We told the players the situation, but that we still wanted to play him, and they all took it well, because I think they knew Conor was one of the better players on the team,"

At amateur level, McGregor lined out with now Lincoln City midfielder Alan Power. The former Ireland Under-21 international has played over 250 league games for the Imps, having previously been on the books of Nottingham Forest and Hartlepool United. He recalls how the pair followed different paths, but both ended up with successful careers.

“We used to knock around in the same circle of friends back home when we were growing up," Power said in the Irish Examiner.

"He played Sunday League football where I did, actually he wasn’t a bad footballer, but he chose a different path.

“He made the right decision, he’s a better fighter than a footballer, but who knows, I might have been the same!"

Despite being a star on the football pitch, McGregor was never a proper fan of the game. He fell into supporting Manchester United, but only because his family had been fans of the Old Trafford club.

He also finds it strange that Irish people are so passionate about Premier League teams despite not living in the same country as their idols and ignoring the League of Ireland on their doorstep.

"I was big into football as a kid, but more as a player than a watcher," he told the Irish Independent.

"I suppose if you pushed me I would say Manchester United, but that’s only because it gets passed down from generation to generation.

"I think just about everyone in Ireland is either a Liverpool or United fan. But some people go a little weird, referring to the team they support as “we”. To me that’s a little crazy. I admire their athleticism and their dedication."

Should McGregor overcome Mayweather in the August bout, he will have conquered another discipline. Could a return to football be on the cards after that? Nothing would surprise the world to hear the 28-year-old making yet another outlandish plan for world domination.

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But one superstar might stand in his way...

"Ronaldo is a phenomenal athlete," McGregor admits.

"His speed, his takeoff from a standing start and his ability to operate at high speeds are impressive."

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