George Horan’s unflinching commitment to the cause was never in question during his four seasons at Chester FC .
So much so that the treble title-winning captain was named as the Blues’ best skipper from the past 25 years in a Chronicle poll .
But the defender surpassed himself to help his current club Connah’s Quay Nomads record what is being regarded as the greatest European result in Welsh Premier League history.
Horan was the captain of the Nomads side that stunned HJK Helsinki in the Europa League last Thursday (June 29).
But just as impressive was the lengths the 35-year-old went to play in the encounter.
With a young family and a full-time job, at the end of the 2016-17 campaign Horan was questioning whether his third season back at Nomads would be his last.
The father-of-two did not worry that a family holiday, booked around a wedding in Cyprus, coincided with the dates for Europa League first qualifying round first leg ties.
But then the competitive juices started flowing and Horan, who was named in the 2016-17 Welsh Premier League team of the year after helping Nomads to a club record second-placed finish, signed a new one-year contract.
Then came the little matter of convincing his wife to leave the holiday early to play in the initial clash with 27-time Finnish champions HJK.
Horan and his family were to due to fly home last Friday (June 30), the day after the first leg.
But, mindful that he did not want his wife and children returning on their own, it was agreed that the holiday would be extended to yesterday (Monday, July 3).
And that allowed Horan to fly back to England last Wednesday (June 28), play for Nomads the following evening, jet back to Cyprus to rejoin his family the next morning, before eventually returning home yesterday along with the rest of his family.
“It worked out well in the end,” said Horan, who will be back on a flight tomorrow (Wednesday, July 5) as Nomads travel to Helsinki for the second leg.
“But it didn’t go down well at first!”
A place in the bad books averted, Horan can now concentrate on this Thursday’s (July 6) return leg.
Nomads will take a 1-0 lead to the Finnish capital after a heroic performance at the Bangor University Stadium.
The magnitude of the result cannot be underestimated.
It was HJK’s 123rd match in European competition - in contrast it was Nomads’ fifth - and in the 2011-12 Champions League qualifying rounds they inflicted a record European defeat on a Welsh Premier club when they annihilated Bangor City 13-0 on aggregate.
But the current runaway Veikkausliiga leaders, who are 16 games into their league season, could find no way to break down a defence marshalled by Horan, and his fellow former Chester team-mate John Danby, and drilled by highly rated manager, and former Manchester City hero, Andy Morrison.
“In all honesty we didn’t expect to get much but the way we’ve been the last couple of years, keeping things tight, and being well structured, means we always seem to get results,” said Horan, who flew back from Cyprus the first time along with goalkeeper Danby, who had attended the same wedding.
“We beat Stabaek (of Norway) in the first qualifying round last year and that was a shock but Helsinki have got proper European pedigree.
“So for us to get any sort of result against them was great and it gives us a great chance going into the second leg, especially if we get an early goal, or any goal, as they’ll need three.
“We weren’t under pressure going into the first leg, everyone expected us to get walloped, and it’ll be the same in the second leg.
“Before the first leg we wanted to keep it tight so the second leg wasn’t a formality.
“So to be going out there with a result is fantastic.”
Horan reluctantly left Chester in the summer of 2014 after four memorable years with his hometown club.
But he has enjoyed further success with Nomads, who are in the process of turning full-time as they continue to challenge The New Saints’ dominance of the Welsh domestic game.
“I was disappointed to leave a Chester when I did,” said Horan, who is part of the Blues’ Hall of Fame, along with Nomads team-mate Michael Wilde.
“I would have liked to stay another year but with the way the club was going, with the commitment of full-time football, it wouldn’t have worked.
“But I still want to play, I still want to be competitive and I don’t want this just to fizzle out.
“I’m 36 next year and going running every morning on holiday and watching what I eat, and not drinking too much, is hard work.
“But I’d be a fool to turn games like the other night (against HJK) down. As long as I feel fit, and I’m not getting done for pace, I want to keep playing for as long as I can.”