Kerry’s loss to Dublin on the opening night of the National Football League was only a small talking point after the conclusion of the game, writes Sean Cremin.
There was no epic encounter to add to the long fought rivalry. All of the game’s reaction evolved around the announcement of Paul Galvin’s retirement. One of the most famous footballers in the country called time on his prolonged intercounty career.
Different people will look back on his career in different ways. Some will simply say he was one the greatest of his generation. Some people will say he was over-rated. Others will point to the fact that he was regularly involved in controversies. People will say that his reputation went before him and he was often the victim as opposed to the aggressor. Another angle could be that he became more famous for his actions on the field, than his actions on the field. Throughout his career he was a man who divided opinions and this will continue now that he has retired.
Was Paul Galvin a great footballer? For a part of his career he most definitely was. He was unquestionably the Footballer of the Year in 2009 and the following two years or so showed his true value to the Kerry side. He had a lot of injury trouble towards the end of his career but he changed many games following his impact from the bench. He was by no means a free scoring forward but his work-rate, ball winning and ball retention were as good as any.
He was very much an unsung hero for the most part of his career. It was only when a player like Brian Dooher revolutionised the position of wing-forward that followers really start to take notice of the role of a wing-forward. While it was a forward position, there predominate role was to work hard, win breaking ball and play a more creative role in supplying ball for inside-forwards. Chipping in with scores was almost a bonus.
Work rate was a huge part of Galvin’s game and his ball winning was as good as any. It wasn’t until the latter years of his career that he really began to showcase his quality of kick-passing. Two games of note were the drawn Munster Football semi-final between Cork and Kerry in Killarney in 2010 and the All-Ireland semi-final versus Mayo in 2011. In both of these contests Galvin came on and changed the course of the game. His ability to win breaking ball and create attacking chances was never more evident and both of these games resulting in Kerry’s fortunes improving on Galvin’s arrival.
2009 was the height of his footballing career. The main thing that stood out in this season was the way he bounced back from a horrific year in 2008. Galvin missed nearly all of 2008 through suspension. A moment of madness when he slapped the referee’s notebook out of Paddy Russell’s hand on receiving a second yellow card put an early end to his season. It wasn’t his first act of ill-discipline and this is a shadow that some people will hang over Galvin and his footballing career. He had a reputation but I think it’s fair to say that his reputation had been earned.
There were occasions when his reputation did go against him. He had many great battles and rivalries with many players, most notably Cork’s Noel O’Leary and Eoin Cadogan. He was rarely out of controversy but the irony is that this aggression and living-on-the-edge style of play was what made him. He was a fiery individual and opponents knew this. He was targeted and his short fuse blew up on more than one occasion. This did lead to him missing games through suspension but in the long run he provided more than enough for Kerry football.
He was most definitely a passionate Kerryman, as he showed in 2012 after their qualifier victory against Tyrone when he gave an emotional speech after the game. This passion was a huge part of his game. He did everything he could for Kerry. In a county blessed with graceful footballers, a grafter is always needed to bring balance to the side. But Galvin was more than a grafter. He had a specific role to the Kerry side, and fulfilled it to the best of his ability. There has been mixed reaction following his retirement but personally I would have a player like Galvin in any team.
So on the field, Galvin will be remembered for his playing ability, his controversy and his very impressive medal collection. While his high-profile career in Gaelic Football will be over, it’s all but a certainty that Galvin will remain in the public eye for many years to come. In terms of careers after G.A.A, Galvin has been possibly the most active and vocal of all as he explores life in the fashion industry.
The likes of Lar Corbett have invested in businesses already and the likes of Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll have planned their own initiatives for ‘life after sport’. Galvin on the other hand has been a beneficiary of the new found fame of G.A.A players nationwide. His programme ‘Galvinised’ that went to air in 2010 showed the other side to Paul Galvin. There was a lot more to the ‘hard man’ image that he showcased on football fields all over Ireland.
Galvin spoke prominently of his love for fashion and his intention to leave teaching for the fashion industry. It was certainly new ground for a G.A.A player. Fashion would certainly be seen as an obscure pastime for a sports star in Ireland but Galvin put doubt to that perception. Galvin certainly showed the potential marketability that exists in modern-day G.A.A and we will see much more of Galvin on-line and on newspapers and television as he moves onto life after G.A.A.
He will be a loss to the game, as it’s always a shame to lose a big character. It will take a while for Kerry to fully replace him, but at thirty-four and the retirement of Tomás Ó’Sé, the saying ‘all good things come to an end’ is beginning to come to head for this current Kerry side. It looked as if he would move to half-back for 2014, but I’m sure there was a long and honest consultation with Kerry manager, and seemingly good friend, Eamon Fitzmaurice, before a decision to call time on his career was made.
At the height of his powers, he was a great player. He has the honours and performances to prove so. Could he have been even better had he been a bit more disciplined? Or would that have taken a dimension out of his game? He developed a lot of admirers and also a lot of critics throughout his career. He was very much a love-hate figure. Either way a glittering Gaelic Football career has ended, but we certainly haven’t heard the end of Paul Galvin.