The sense of unfinished business has lured four-time All-Ireland winner Paul Galvin into the unlikeliest of sporting u-turns — a return to the Kerry fold last night in Tralee, with a stated aim of winning a fifth Celtic Cross medal next September.
Kerry players had to do a double-take in the dressing room of the County Board grounds in Caherslee just before 7pm last night when Galvin, 35 since November, arrived with his kit-bag in tow, 13 months after he unexpectedly called it quits on the eve of a National League game against Dublin in Croke Park.
That, comparatively speaking, was a minor tremor against the seismic decision, confirmed to close friends and family members in recent days, that he was to return to the Kerry squad with immediate effect.
He does so with the whole-hearted agreement of Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and in the knowledge that it is a huge gamble not just for him but also brother-in-law, Fitzmaurice.
Though it was never franked as the reason he walked away in February 2014, concerns about his ability — living and working in Dublin — to retain necessary levels of peak fitness were legitimately advanced as a primary contributor to his retirement decision.
Those issues remain at the moment, as presumably do niggling hip and back issues, but Galvin’s singlemindedness is rare, even by the absurd standards in modern day sport. As he told this writer in an interview last October to coincide with the launch of his autobiography: “When I zone into something, it’s all I can think about.
When I did the book, I did it quite quickly, because when I focus on something it takes over.”
And yet his decision last year had a finality about it that brooked no possibility of an about turn. He told me that he hadn’t seen a single Kerry game during last year’s championship before the All-Ireland final — not even on television.
The development of his fashion, blogging and online businesses accelerated in 2014, and while he won a Kerry hurling championship with Lixnaw last year, he had firmly closed the door on an inter-county career which had its zenith in 2009, when he was named Football of the Year.
He retains the fitness regime of a zealot, but even for someone like Galvin, getting up to speed with Kerry is a big ask: It’s more than possible management are looking at him more with the summer in mind than the spring.
The other important issue for all concerned is expectation: Galvin hasn’t returned to sit on the bench, but it would be a substantial leap of faith from Fitzmaurice’s management team to parachute him in over those queuing up for starting positions in attack — not least of which is Tommy Walsh, Colm Cooper and James O’Donoghue. Hence the hunch that Galvin may be looking at a defensive role, notwithstanding the fact that any jersey from No 2 to 12 can now be interpreted as a defender.
The oddness of his decision from a broader standpoint is that Kerry appear locked and loaded with options, especially in attack.
Therefore, don’t rule out a gambit first road-tested at the Amendoeira Golf resort on the Algarve three years back: The idea of Galvin as a centre half back or sweeper.
When he retired a year ago, Fitzmaurice revealed in interviews: “I think he could have done a couple of jobs for us. We were looking at him in the half-back line. I think he could have done his old job in the half-forward line. He mightn’t have been a starter all of the time but he’s 34 years of age.
“The way he played the game for a lot of years, he took a lot of knocks and his body, he minds it very well, he lives like a monk. At the same time, it just required a lot of taking care of as well.”
I last chatted with Paul in November, having read his excellent autobiography from his own hand and in his own words.
“I went home and slept on it,” he wrote after leaving his final training session at the end of January 2014.
“I rang Eamonn at lunchtime (Friday) and told him. The time had come. I’d had enough. Enough rising and falling. Enough driving. It was time to stop the madness.” And now, off it goes again.
For how long?
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