Galvin decision: The Big Call

WILL he start Paul Galvin? Not at all, we said. He can’t.

Too rusty, too much of a gamble, an eggs-in-one-basket move that would smack of desperation.

Ideally, he would, but he can’t, and so he won’t, and that’s the end of it.

That’s how we were feeling all week, and, in fact, we had the whole issue of Galvin’s starting role stroked down as almost failing to reach the level of a talking-point.

Until… until, we heard Newstalk’s Eamon Keane broadcast from Listowel Races on Thursday afternoon, where the level of support for starting Galvin caught us by surprise. And we suspect many around the country were equally taken aback.

Jimmy Deenihan talked about the team management knowing what’s best, and more besides, but when you stripped his contribution down to its bare bones, you were in no doubt he believed strongly that Galvin should start. Mick Galwey was of similar view, and, following some Deenihan-like clearing of his throat and issuance of disclaimers, Martin Ferris made it a straight three for Galvin to command a place in the first 15.

A 3-0 verdict was staggering, particularly – as was later confirmed – the feeling abroad was that Pat O’Shea would not parachute the Lixnaw man into his selection.

The three cited Galvin’s ultra-competitiveness, which is scarcely in doubt, and noted how his qualities are a pre-requisite when taking on Tyrone.

It was only then we got a full appreciation of the pressure on O’Shea over this selection. In Kerry, every manager walks a tightrope, and it is now abundantly clear there is a significant cohort of people who – for one reason or another, be it geographical, political, or footballing – wanted Galvin to start.

If it goes wrong, the Kerry air will dance with talk of “…I said it beforehand Galvin should start…” This is The Big Call.

This is to Pat O’Shea what Declan O’Sullivan versus Mayo 2006 was to Jack O’Connor. It, too, had wide-ranging implications. By bringing back O’Sullivan, O’Connor was costing Gooch the captaincy – and his Dr Crokes clubmate, Eoin Brosnan, a place in the first 15.

As O’Connor wryly noted in his book The Keys to the Kingdom, when discussing the controversy with the benefit of hindsight and a winner’s entitlement to write history, it was “one omelette (that was not) going to get made without breaking a lot of eggs.”

O’Shea has made his call. Galvin doesn’t start. Ergo, Tomas Ó Sé is captain for the day, leads the parade, and, we suspect, gets at least one hand on the cup if they manage to see off Tyrone’s challenge. The 2006 fall guy – Eoin Brosnan – gets the nod this time.

Here, we think O’Shea has made the right call, even though Brosnan – or anyone else, for that matter – hadn’t nailed down that wing-forward position all year.

In an ideal world, it would be Galvin: but it hasn’t been an ideal season, let alone world, for him, and the wise thing to do was to leave him in cold storage. There’s only so much he can give. And the sight of him starting, only to be taken off at a crucial juncture, could give Tyrone a psychological lift in an encounter of compelling psychological elements.

Best have Galvin coming into the thunderstorm than leaving it – there will be dirty ball to be won in the second-half too, you know. The Galvin issue is just one more sub-plot in a game of extraordinary complexity.

Mickey Harte has pulled the Stephen O’Neill rabbit out of the hat, but, perhaps due to his pre-eminence as Tyrone’s most successful manager ever, and their one and only All-Ireland manager, he has done so without attracting the slightest flutter of commentary within his own constituency, and very little beyond it either.

Have we ever contemplated a final of such endless fascination, so rich in tactical nuances, so alive with possibility? Perhaps not.

It appeals to the primal and intellectual sides, and it houses some of the finest talents the game has ever seen. The cliché winner-takes-all has never seemed more appropriate.

For Gaelic football fans, the whole pageant cannot come quickly enough.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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