The numbers tell the change in Paul Geaney’s tale. Last summer, he played 279 minutes of championship football but started and finished just one game, substituted on three occasions and coming off the bench twice.
Two games down this summer and he’s been on the field for the first and last shrills of the whistle, almost 150 minutes in his account and 2-8 to his name.
The 2015 season, which finished with shoulder surgery and the removal of cysts from his spinal cord that were troubling his sciatic nerve, is getting smaller in his rearview mirror.
“I am back to full fitness. No niggles, at all. I am excited about the year ahead if I can stay the way I am feeling, I am probably in the best shape I have ever been. I have played two games in the Munster championship and finished the two games, which hasn’t always been the case in my Kerry career. I have been taken off with 10 or 15 minutes to go because I have been carrying injuries or haven’t been able to get full fitness. So far, delighted with where I am at, personally.”
The shoulder operation in November meant getting back for the league was always going to be a challenge for the Dingle man. “I didn’t actually rehab until just after Christmas. I did most of my rehab with Peter Crowley so that was a massive help because he was the same operation on the shoulder. That was serious help because trying to do rehab, it really tests you mentally. It’s gruelling, it’s painful. Having somebody else that is going through that as the same time as you, he was probably a week ahead of me, so he was telling me what to expect.
“When you’re frustrated and you can’t move your shoulder, he was telling me, ‘Look, it’ll be better next week’. It was good to have that guide and having Peter doing the same things as me. It was a serious help and I think both of us are in a good place right now.”
Following two further defeats to Dublin this year including the Division 1 final, few are convinced Kerry are yet over their non-performance in last September’s All-Ireland decider. Geaney is certain those inside the camp have direction, though.
“I think we know where we are right now, we know where we are individually and I think we know where we are going. It is good to know that, there is comfort in it, knowing where you want to go and having basically a plan in front of you. When we get there hopefully it will, but it is on the day and it is up to every individual to perform.”
The absence of Cork in a Munster final meant little to Geaney.
“Munster championship is Munster championship, it’s knockout from here on in. There’s always that cushion of knowing that if you do lose a Munster championship game, you’ve another bite of the cherry. Now the real stuff starts, when the Munster championship is over, you know it’s the big time and it’s time to produce.”
The 25-year-old feels they are building towards producing their optimum potential. “We are getting closer and levels of training is getting close to that. It is trying to time it right and make sure the graph is moving upward and it is about getting to our output peak, maximum, by the end of August and hopefully September. It is about delivering our ‘A’ game on the big day and that is what we are working towards. We didn’t do it last September and it was bitterly disappointing but last year is last year and we are enjoying what we are doing at the moment.”
The talk about Dublin is the All-Ireland quarter-finals are the best time to catch them. Whatever abut the All-Ireland champions, Geaney insists the same can’t be said about Kerry.
“We’re used to playing four-week games. We’ve always been good in quarter-finals and good enough to get through quarter-finals. I suppose we’ll be ready for whoever we get.
“It’s about whether we produce our top, top game or do we produce enough to get through the quarter-final. That’s on the day but we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.
“But we won’t be caught napping. A lot of people were saying Tipperary in a Munster final but we gave Tipperary the respect they deserved. We gave enough to beat Tipperary with a small cushion. It wasn’t our best but that’s what we aim to give every day.”
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