More than the 22-point rout of Galway, or the David Clifford masterclass, Paul Galvin was heartened by a rediscovery of Kerry’s football DNA in Tralee on Saturday.
If the former footballer of the year sensed the Kingdom had drifted away from traditions last year, he also found it perfectly understandable. As someone who served as an inter-county manager during the first Covid lockdown, Galvin acutely appreciated that normal rules didn’t apply in 2020.
“I think last year was an aberration in terms of DNA, I think DNA went out the window. The DNA and identity stuff, for the last 12 months, has taken a back seat, through necessity.
“It was a big factor why I came out of Wexford. Trying to drive identity, trying to create spirit, trying to build a DNA, I felt that opportunity was gone with all the time pressure and regulations and restrictions.”
Speaking on the, Galvin outlined how he feels a Kerry team should honour the county’s heritage.
“The DNA, in general, in Kerry for me is: Little or no plays coming out of defence with the ball, getting it up the field, moving it on quickly.
“People talk about the handpass, and there being too much handpassing, I just look at passing and the quality of passing.
“I think Kerry have possibly fallen into a trap in recent years maybe of not taking care of the ball the way they should. Because teams are sitting off and there’s not a need to take care of the ball as you would have 10 years ago. When there was more man-on-man stuff, your passing had to be better.
“I think Kerry put too much ball along the ground last year — and that would be a DNA thing for me.
“I think maybe last week was a rediscovery of the heads-up, play-forward approach that we all would look for.”
Next up for Kerry is a meeting with All-Ireland champions Dublin on Sunday in Thurles.
As a player, Galvin was noted for relishing early-season league tussles.
Pressed on how he’d handle the Dublin challenge, he focused on current footballer of the year Brian Fenton, a player he hugely admires.
“I was looking recently at a video of Brian Fenton. What a superb player. It was a highlight reel of 11 scores. I think there were three goals and eight points over various games. An outstanding player, but there wasn’t a single tackle in the 11 clips. There wasn’t even a single player near him.
“That’s testament to his athleticism, his ability, his mindset. I love listening to the guy speak. When I listen to him speak, I almost say to myself, I wish he was from Kerry. Because he speaks of the game with such enthusiasm and such love.
“People compare him to Jacko (Shea) and he is like Jacko from the point of view of how he talks about the game.
“Jacko talks about the game like a kid, Fenton talks about the game like a kid, with this enthusiasm that I think is a massive advantage. Enthusiasm is the best form of fitness that there is.
“But watching those clips, I’d be disappointed. If I was on the field for those games and he went through the field, ran through us like that, and I didn’t get near him, and make his life extremely difficult. That was my job with Kerry.”
If Peter Keane’s side can match Dublin’s fitness this year, Galvin believes there is a good chance they can end the six-in-a-row champions’ reign.
“You hate to make it about fitness with Dublin because it does them a disservice, but it’s a massive point for the team that will match them. You have to be at least as fit if not fitter. And I think a Kerry team that is as fit would beat them. Have we been as fit over the last few years, I’m not sure.”
He added: “The dirty work, the tracking a run, has to be prescribed. I was lucky, I loved that kind of work, it came naturally to me. But I was also directed. It was prescribed to me, it was given to me, I was told: X, Y, and Z, track the runners, middle of the field, get around the breaks, make sure you clear ground, win it if you can, and make sure whoever wins it has a very hard time making a play of it.”
Another enthusiastic figure Galvin admires is former team-mate Kieran Donaghy, now coaching with Armagh, with Galvin certain the county will reap the benefits.
“You see a lot of positivity around the place these days and you see a lot of people talking about positivity. It’s almost a commodity now. But you can fake positivity. You can write it on Instagram or you can say in a talk that it’s important to be positive. But optimism is a different thing.
“Optimism is a much more natural thing and more powerful thing and Kieran is a born optimist.
“And I think there’s huge value in that for a coach or a manager, to be naturally optimistic about what you’re doing. You don’t have to force positivity then. You can be pragmatic but you don’t have to waste energy forcing positivity on people.”