Dublin may be coming down to Tralee this weekend threatening the host county’s long-held record for the most number of consecutive games without defeat, but there’s one record Kerry football itself seems to be continuously making and updating these days — the number of former players involved in the punditry game.
Only yesterday, Aidan O’Mahony began an online column with AIB, naturally managing to reference his current appearance on a certain prime-time television show in an article on the new Super 8 championship format.
“For players, it’s great to be able to play week in and week out.
"It’s the same with the league and actually a bit like Dancing with the Stars too — you know, there’s a great momentum to it,” Rathmore’s finest wrote, if, between his hectic dancing schedule and new-dad household duties, he actually had time to do such a thing instead of just chatting to a ghostwriter.
O’Mahony isn’t the only just-retired Kerry defender that has made his media debut this spring.
Marc Ó Sé is the Daily Mail on Sunday’s new choice of football columnist, as well as being on the eir sport roster for their coverage of the national league.
That of course means he’s the third in his immediate family to impressively secure a regular column with a national newspaper.
Then you have their fellow An Ghaeltacht clubman Dara Ó Cinnéide, who has been the leading football analyst for the Irish Examiner over the past 11 seasons with his intelligent, measured approach.
The list goes on and on.
Mike Quirke, while hardly the highest-profile player in his day, has through his wit, insight, and candour also carved out a fine niche for himself in the pages of the Irish Examiner.
Last summer The Sunday Times shook up their part of the world, opting to go with Paul Galvin as their football columnist, after Jack O’Shea had held the position for over 20 years.
Declan O’Sullivan does a weekly column during the summer for gaa.ie.
In the past, Jack O’Connor has written lively pieces for The Irish Times and the Irish Examiner, while Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s column for this paper showcased why he was the football brain worthy to succeed O’Connor.
All in all, it’s fair to say despite the noble efforts of the Dublin team of 1995, there hasn’t been a GAA team who have had such prominence in the national GAA media game as that Kerry team of the mid-Noughties.
That’s also before two huge personalities in Gooch and Donaghy come along and nudged them to move over and make some space in the studio or press box for them. Clearly, they’ve all a lot more to say than ‘Yerrah.’
It’s quite the change from the early Noughties, when the Kerry team was notorious when it came to its interactions with the media.
This reporter was one of many to have his share of footballs kicked over his head while a grinning Maurice Fitzgerald or Seamus Moynihan dutifully obliged Páidí’s instruction: Either tell them nothing or tell them ‘yerrah’.
It all gave the perception of a team with little colour or personality, and, in 2001, the columnist Tommy Conlon would contend it was harder to think of a more anonymous group of All-Ireland champions as Kerry were then.
That criticism irked a number of Kerry folk, including then county chairman Seán Walsh, but a couple of years after a media- friendly Tyrone team effectively ended Páidí’s tenure, Walsh would concede Kerry had become “the unfriendly face of football” and that it was something that would have to change.
Under Jack O’Connor, Kerry’s interaction with the media would considerably improve.
For sure, at times, they could be prickly, especially Jack himself and, in the case of the Ó Sé brothers, wary and evasive, but for the most part O’Connor and his team were accessible and we got to see them for what they were: One of the most charismatic, brilliant teams football has known.
There’s a reason why so many of them are in demand now as pundits.
In his column, Galvin talks about the need for a team to have personality and, whatever you say about him, that’s something he and his former teammates had. They’ve the profile, the medals, the credibility, and the confidence to proffer an opinion.
They’re able to tell a story and coin a phrase. In most cases, they have a bit of humour, which always helps and, in all cases, they have a serious football intelligence.
It can tell something about a team by how some of them later go into the media game or even the business of writing a book.
All these years on and the great Kerry team of O’Dwyer still has an impressive visibility: John O’Keeffe in The Irish Times, Bomber in the Indo, and of course, Spillane on the TV and in the Sunday World.
The Meath team of the late ’80s was unique for having two players writing for two leading Sunday newspapers, while still in their playing prime.
At the time, both Colm O’Rourke and Liam Hayes were essential reading, continuously giving an insight into one of the most relevant and fascinating dressing rooms in Irish sport.
It’s impossible to think we’ll ever have anything like it again, one a full-time journalist as well as team captain, writing warts-and-all depictions of his manager and teammates, the other an All Star opining freely about his own team and opponents.
The second team Seán Boylan built would go on to have a much lower-media profile through the years.
Trevor Giles wrote a bit for this paper, before joining Mick O’Dowd’s ill-fated team, but someone like John McDermott, upon his retirement, chose to go from being the most imposing player of his generation into instant anonymity, never to be seen again.
Ulster personalities — for all their candour and co-operation — seem to find it harder to command a regular slot with the Dublin-based papers and television studios, Joe Brolly being the exception.
That said, the least visible All-Ireland champions of the last quarter of a century happens to be the most southern county of all.
Already, Donegal’s 2012 success has spawned a couple of books as well as columnists in Jim McGuinness and Rory Kavanagh as well as a promising, quirky writer in Éamonn McGee with The Star.
The Cork team of 2010 has not produced a single autobiography, and at this point is unlikely to, in stark contrast to the six their nemesis Kerry have offered up, while Tony Davis remains the last Leeside footballer to regularly appear on The Sunday Game.
It’ll be a challenge for the Kerry boys to stay relevant and fresh in the years ahead.
There’s only so many stories that you can tell or hear about Páidí, but what will always ensure that there’s a few Kerry faces in the paper and the telly is the continued appearance of Kerry in Croke Park. The faces may change, but the accent won’t.
As for the Dublin team of this decade, will we see a lot of them up in the press box and on the airwaves five years from now?
There’s obviously a huge level of football intelligence there, as evident by Tomás Quinn’s contributions to this paper, but since Jim Gavin assumed command, a huge level of reticence as well.
“Process” is the new “Yerrah”.
Alan Brogan showed promise in his first season out of the dressing room, but will need to give more insights into the processes of that process and the characters of that dressing room to remain relevant.
Until then, at least on one count, the Kerry lads have Dublin’s measure.