Kerry's not so secret weapon

A year ago, few had heard of Paul Galvin. Now, the Kerry Allstar is facing a new set of challenges. He spoke to Jim O'Sullivan.

THERE must be days Paul Galvin wishes he had another few hours.

Winning an All-Ireland medal with Kerry last year was only the half of it for the Finuge man. He played in the International Rules Series against Australia, became the 1,000th Allstar and helped Finuge win the All-Ireland junior club title at the end of March. Not to mention a long-standing desire to play hurling for Kerry!

Acutely aware that he is perceived as a 'worker' and provider - effectively the role assigned him by the Kerry management - he wants to develop his game. He's looking to be 'a more rounded player.'

"I'm going to have to step it up this year,'' he says. "Last year I was a bit of an unknown quantity. I'm going to have to find something new.''

A teacher in Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork for the past three years, Galvin feels his time in UCC wasn't just educational in the classroom, but helped his footballing development. In 1999 he won a Cork county championship medal, helping UCC beat Nemo Rangers in a replayed final and the team went as far as the All-Ireland club semi-final before being knocked out by Crossmaglen Rangers.

"Playing with the College helped my career. I had been a Kerry minor before I came up but it was that run which brought me into the limelight a bit more. It was where I first started playing football in the backs and I got a few games with Kerry as a half-back.''

His career took a serious dip in 2000 when he suffered an injury to his shoulder which lasted about a year and a half, but surgery finally sorted it out. Picked for his first League game in 2002 against Leitrim, he was again in trouble when he went over on his ankle in May, losing about six weeks of training. "I was brought back in for a trial game. I just couldn't get a full hour. But, that was a successful Kerry team which had won an All-Ireland, got to a semi-final the following year and then a final. It was hard to break in.''

Two years ago he played the last 15 minutes of the Munster final win over Limerick and was a sub in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.

"Naturally, I would have been hoping to get a game that day, I felt I was maybe ready. But, Páidí had me as a half-back at the time. It wasn't a problem, I could play there, but you had Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Seamus Moynihan, Tomas Ó Sé, John Sheehan and Marc Ó Sé - a lot of good players - so it wasn't easy to break in."

The appointment of Jack O'Connor was good news for Galvin. O'Connor knew him from colleges competition and the Kerry U21s, and he was part of the squad which went to Spain on a training camp at the start of last year.

"After a few days he said if I was showing any bit of form he'd like to pick me. It was up to me to show what I could do. It was a big boost to get,'' he recalled. "I played in nearly all the League games."

While he started the League final against Galway, he didn't finish the game, and he suffered a similar fate in his first championship start a short time afterwards, against Clare in Cusack Park.

"I felt I did quite well in the League, but my first few championship games didn't go well. I was taken off in Ennis ten minutes into the second half and the next game was against Cork, for which I was dropped. In my third championship game I was marking Stephen Lucey who got man-of-the-match. I had to work very hard, be very determined in what I was doing, but in fairness Jack and the selectors kept faith with me.''

He says he was earmarked for the role of worker and provider, to tackle, win breaks and turn over ball. "That's basically my job. It will probably be the same this year. Towards the end of the year I chipped in with a few scores.''

Selection for the International Rules series was an added bonus: "I was thrown in at the deep end, but I was grateful to get a chance and I really enjoyed the experience.

He acknowledges he has been lucky to be part of an exceptional Kerry team and that he took inspiration from watching Colm Cooper in action.

"I looked at him in 2002, in training and playing in championship games against Cork, Galway Armagh and Galway - at 18 years old, ten stone weight. I was saying, 'is this for real?' - if this guy can do it, maybe I can do it.

"I really did. He inspired me in a way, because it was unbelievable what he was doing.''

Understandably, his club commitments took a lot out of him and Eamonn Fitzmaurice; the county junior championship extended right up to Christmas and kept them involved until they defeated Tyrone side Stewartstown in the final. However, the manager gave them time off to recover.

"We're only concerned about the Tipperary game right now, but looking around, you'd have to say that Armagh are definitely the team to beat. They are physically very strong and very determined and Kieran McGeeney looks to be on top of his game again. Like Seamus or Darragh for us, he is a huge driving force.

"You couldn't write off Tyrone or Galway and you'd never know with Dublin. After running us so close last year, Limerick will obviously be feeling that they can turn us over this year if we meet them. And Cork are going to be dangerous this year."

As for the hurling? "I haven't hurled in about two years and I'd like to play again, but it's kind of impossible at the minute."

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