Shall he, as Thomas Hardy so wished about himself in “Afterwards”, be remembered fondly? Or would he be that preoccupied with his legacy? Galvin was more of a Dylan Thomas man, and ventured outside the Welsh poet’s works on the Leaving Cert syllabus for inspiration. Some years back, he intended being tattooed with the famous line from “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” — “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
His naysayers will snort and scoff at the mention of that line and proffer he now hardly stands so defiantly in protest at the dwindling of his inter-county career as an awry trial at reinventing himself as a centre-back tipped him over the edge.
That myopic school of thought would overlook the gauntlet the 34-year-old put himself through to reach the top of his field. Eamonn Fitzmaurice touched on it on Saturday when he said: “The way he played the game for a lot of years he took a lot of knocks. He minds his body very well, he lives like a monk but at the same time it required a lot of taking care of as well.”
The role of a human pinball, as much as he took to it with zeal, had its consequences. We recall the 2007 All-Ireland quarter-final against Monaghan when, after taking one too many shuddering tackles, Pat O’Shea substituted him. O’Shea patted him on the shoulder as he exited the fray but even with that light brush he winced.
Brian Dooher may have redefined the wing-forward role but Galvin had the gumption to add more to the brief, enough to make it his own before Paul Flynn prised away the baton.
It wasn’t so much that he was good at winning dirty ball but his ability to absorb or break the ensuing tackle and compose himself to turn playmaker.
The shelf-life of the brief he chiselled for himself was inevitably short, 2009 seeing Galvin hit the peak of his powers although his two vintage cameos against Cork the following year hinted he was still at his zenith.
Irrespective of the suspension arising from his “fish-hook” altercation with Eoin Cadogan in the replay, a moment he later described as “brain-dead”, rarely has a footballer managed back-to-back man of the match winning performances coming off the bench.
His and Tomás Ó Sé’s absences cost Kerry dearly in Croke Park and, as he revealed in his RTÉ “Galvanised” documentary, the thought of letting his team down troubled him greatly. But there is a large element of Galvin that would argue he couldn’t have performed as well as he did if he didn’t tether on the line of what was acceptable.
As cartooned as he was, he took the pencil to himself too. How he stood on the rostrum with the Sam Maguire Cup in 2009. How a year earlier he spanked Paddy Russell’s book from the referee’s hand. How he cried after beating a below-par Tyrone in the 2012 qualifier in Killarney. Yet he was always box office, and, much like various Tipperary managers would say of Lar Corbett, worth the liberties.
But we had begun to see him mellow. They may have danced together a little in later games but truly the last vestiges of his running battle with Noel O’Leary came in the 2012 league game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the granite Cork defender entered the fray with 18 minutes to go and, to the crowd’s delight, immediately took up the detail on his old adversary. They took turns at Tom and Jerry for a while before the Kerryman threw his arms in the air like the shot soldier in the famous anti-war “why?” poster.
Notably losing pace these last couple of reasons, he relied more on his reading of the game, which maintained his relevancy in winning breaks and initiating attacks. On Saturday, Jim Gavin gave Fitzmaurice what might be easily described as a dig for substituting him in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final: “I thought he had a good season last year and he certainly gave us a lot of trouble. I was surprised to see him taken off in that game.”
But when so few of us did, nobody knew or gave as much counsel to Galvin as his brother-in-law.
A Dylan of another kind was more in tune with Galvin when he wrote “don’t criticise what you can’t understand.” Peel away the caricature and what remains was a footballer who, on top of breaking the mould of the atypical Kerry footballer, won every honour, losing just six of the 45 Championship games he started.
Try condemning that.
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GAA president Liam O’Neill could end up getting his wish to clean up the sidelines if only for managers doing it of their own accord.
Three Division 1 managers — Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Jason Ryan and James Horan — all watched from the stands with their selectors at the weekend. The Kerry manager revealed the vantage point from the Hogan Stand coaches’ box was more beneficial than watching from the sideline.
The O’Neill-influenced sideline regulations irked plenty last year, but in time they may provide the impetus for managers to, ahem, see things differently.
On Friday we brought you the story of a 15-year-old hurler who, despite missing 33 days of school with stress, was so determined to continue representing his club of four years that he took his case to the Disputes Resolution Authority.
Conor Smith’s only wish is to play for Birr, as his grandfather had, but he has been prevented from doing so because a county board investigation called by fellow parish club Crinkill found he was only eligible to play for them.
Might it have been because he was a promising hurler?
We would hate to think so, but then local rivalries can become extremely bitter.
It seems the only hope is he continues playing handball and isn’t lost by the GAA, butBirr are vehemently determined to see that parish rule prevails.