As Kerry showed off the Sam Maguire Cup on an open deck bus in Tralee in late September 1997, Pádraic Joyce watched the celebrations from his apartment.
Kerry had been waiting 11 years for such an occasion - a lifetime in Kingdom GAA - and the Tralee RTC computer studies student couldn’t but be envious. By that stage, Galway had been 31 years without such a victory parade.
Joyce, then 20, hadn’t even played senior for his county but he swore there and then the Tribesmen wouldn’t wait beyond 32.
“He admits that himself,” says former Kerry full-back Barry O’Shea, Joyce’s old college mate.
“Staying in an apartment right in the middle of the town and us on the bus coming through it. We passed by the window and he told all the Galway boys in the college, ‘We’ll be doing that next year.’ That’s the way the man thinks and then they came along and did it. I wouldn’t put it past him saying things to his Galway team now and them going and doing it.”
For county company, Joyce had Michael Donnellan along with Michael and Seamus Cloherty in Tralee RTC. Donnellan had just begun his course that September, hoping perhaps to follow in the footsteps of his flatmates and the glittering team that claimed the college’s first Sigerson Cup.
The current Galway manager missed a penalty in the final but had been spectacular throughout the campaign. He had even joined in for a rendition of “The Rose of Tralee” after seeing off a UL side featuring Dara Ó Cinnéide, Mike Frank Russell and O’Shea’s brother Morgan in Coleraine.
Against the University of Ulster Jordanstown in Tralee a year later, the title was retained with a team again boasting the likes of Joyce, O’Shea, Seamus Moynihan and William Kirby but this time with Donnellan, Jim McGuinness along with Russell (who had switched from UL).
Only suspension deprived Joyce of a hat-trick of Sigerson titles the following season.
“Some of the universities looked down on us because we hadn’t the tradition and there was a bit of recruitment but we were putting in the work.
"It was the first time we learned to do early morning training sessions,” recalls O’Shea.
“Pádraic was right-half forward in our Sigerson team and the positional move to full-forward with Galway in ‘98 made him into one of the great players. He was a very good footballer with a lovely left foot, a lovely link player with loads of energy but after that he went to full-forward and changed completely and he became a really top footballer.”
O’Shea could very well have ended up marking Joyce in the 2000 All-Ireland finals but a cruciate injury sustained in a League game against Roscommon ended his season.
And so Joyce ended up being marked on the first day by another Tralee buddy in Moynihan, who Joyce had bamboozled in a challenge game a few months earlier. Ten days before the drawn game, the pair sat down together for the Sunday Independent’s erstwhile Captains’ Table feature, even sharing the back of a car when travelling from the photo session in Mallow to the interview in Springfort Hall.
“We’ll go out and play the game and do our best,” Joyce told Kevin Kimmage. “But either way, we’re not going to fall out over it.”
The pair remain tight as Joyce does with several former Kerry players such as Darragh Ó Sé who he worked alongside as an International Rules selector under Joe Kernan.
“There’s always been that bond between Kerry and Galway because in ways they’re very similar to us in their way of thinking and they’re west of Ireland men as well,” says O’Shea.
“He was like us in that he loved his football, loved his bit of socialising and he wasn’t overawed. Pádraic has always had that confidence without being cocky. He knew he was a good footballer so he fitted into the company. I don’t think he ever had to come down and prove anything because you knew the first day that he could play.”
It doesn’t surprise O’Shea that Galway are adopting a more expansive style under his friend’s watch.
“I don’t think the way they had been playing was true to Galway. Look at (Shane) Walsh and these guys, they’re just off the cuff footballers. Of course, the game has changed and you need to be so good defensively and everyone has to be a good tackler but you still have to be true to your core values. He’s not foolish enough to just go all the way and there has to be balance.
“I sat beside him watching Kerry and Galway in Tuam in the League last year and he was mentioning certain players on the Galway team and others who weren’t even on the team. You know the type of player he wants.
“He’ll want a corner-back that will be able to play football and you can build systems after that but first and foremost it’s about energetic guys that will play in the right way. Now that’s easier said than done but Pádraic is a legend in Galway and if they don’t listen to him then they won’t listen to anybody.”
O’Shea plans to meet up with Joyce after Saturday evening’s game in Tralee but he knows how much he will want the bragging rights.
“I know he’d love to be coming in smiling after winning. You don’t become the player he was without having steel. Any player who has had a decent inter-county career has it and to be a good inter-county manager you need to have it.
“I mean it in the best possible way but Pádraic has that bit of bite about him and he’ll bring that to Galway. We’ve been talking about the nice, fancy football they will want to play but he knows you need the two sides of it.”