The Larry Ryan Interview: A bit of small talk with Paul Galvin about fashion and trends, about Cork and Kerry, about rivalries and greatness, about life after ‘the teachin’ and about where football is going.
A LOST RIVALRY
For a long second, I’m that guy. The lad who approaches county players he doesn’t know in a shop. I’m due to meet Paul Galvin in five minutes at the Audi garage at the Bandon Road Roundabout, but turns out the two of us have popped in first to the Maxol round the corner. He’s browsing the front pages, about to buy the Examiner, no doubt.
What did he say to Dion Fanning in a Sportsjoe interview a few months ago? “I wouldn’t be someone now who makes small talk as such. I don’t look to make new friends. Strangers are strangers to me.”
Still, it’d be weird to squeeze past and then say hello in five minutes round the corner, under approved conditions.
Later, round the corner, we can explore that long second.
LR: “So, would you still be a little wary when a stranger comes up to you in Cork?”
PG: “I’ve always had a great reception in Cork, albeit in my playing days, it wasn’t great. Since I retired really, it’s been very good. I love coming down here. I still have a lot of good friends down here and I always get a friendly word. But it wasn’t always like that.
“It was the nature of the rivalry as well. The rivalry was serious at times. There is no rivalry to speak of now. But at the time, it would have been like that for a lot of Kerry players. A bit of grief, you know.
“The Kerry-Cork thing, I don’t see any rivalry at all at the moment.
“Kerry-Dublin is strong at the minute. Dublin-Mayo. Kerry-Donegal is quite strong. There’s a bit of an edge to that. I don’t think it’ll go away either. That’ll be there for a while.”
LR: “Every match in Ulster…”
PG: Yeah… you’d like to see the Mayo- Galway rivalry really re-energise itself. And I think it might.”
LR: “You talk about that edge like it’s a good thing. But doesn’t every Gaelic football match seem to have an edge these days? Aren’t all the players on edge? Would you even be that controversial if you were playing now?”
PG: “I haven’t noticed anything too bad about it. It hasn’t jumped out to me, to be honest. Those three teams (Dublin, Kerry, Mayo) are obviously the three contenders. There’s a normal degree of competitiveness. I don’t know of anything out of order. I haven’t seen it, other than going for it on the day.”
LR: “Do you ever watch a football match and wonder why they’re all patting each other on the back and picking each other up?”
PG: “You mean soccer?”
LR: “Sorry, yeah, definitely haven’t seen that in Gaelic football.”
PG: “I would never have been picking a guy up anyway. I would have been putting him down and hoping he’d stay down.”
THE KERRY WAY
Ah, he’s grand at the small talk, in fairness. But there’s still The Kerry Test to pass. They’ll always be able to place you, to some degree.
“Are you a Cork man yourself?”
“Ah, Templederry... between Nenagh and…”
“I know Templederry. I was seeing a girl from Templederry.”
D’YA MISS THE TEACHIN’?
This week, Paul Galvin posted a picture on Instagram of himself sitting into an Audi in a field beside a helicopter. The caption: “D’ya miss the teachin’...?
In his fine autobiography, the foreword lingered on the question that most bugged him, since he gave up the teaching: What are you doing with yourself?
“The discomfort comes from… I wouldn’t ask somebody that. I feel there’s something... I wouldn’t say rude, but it alludes to the fact you’re doing nothing.
“And because I wasn’t teaching any more, if you’re not doing a job where everyone understands where you are from nine to five, or nine to three, some people don’t understand it.
“But look, it never really bugged me that much. But I thought it was a good way to open up the book. I thought it would draw people in.”
Fair to say, he’s not missing the teaching too much. His fourth menswear collection with Dunnes Stores is due this autumn, the fifth already planned.
“I was talking to Declan O’Sullivan about this recently and he was asking me how work was going and I was telling him what I was up to. I said to him, I feel it gives me satisfaction in the sense that the more I do... I don’t like the word validation, but it kind of validates the decision to say, right, teaching isn’t for me and this is the line of work for me.
“My teammates knew me, they knew what I was like. Knew I was an honest guy to play with, that I gave it everything and I was committed. But there was obviously an impression on the outside I was looking for a bit of attention, which I never was.
“So the real satisfaction is I’m good at it. Look, I don’t mean I’m good at it, but it’s doing well. And the more I do, the more it’s justified to say, you know what, I can do this. That gives me professional satisfaction.”
LR: “I liked what you wrote about Gooch in the book. What did you call him again?”
PG: “I’ve forgotten now and I wrote the book.”
LR: “And you actually did write it… hold on [rummages for notes]. A disruptive thinker.”
PG: “Yeah… I learned a lot from him. I think players can fall into the trap; they think, how do I learn about the game.
“Well, I need to watch an old tape of that fella or watch this fella on that team, or the coach of the All-Ireland champions. Whereas the place you can learn most is on the training ground off your teammates. I learned a lot off Gooch. He mightn’t have known it.
“The way he moved. He moved in circles a lot. You’d see a corner-forward normally, he’d dash in a straight line, out to you or out to the corner, whereas you’d be looking at him and he’d hold his run. He might go in behind his man’s back and then come out to the front again. And get the ball exactly where he started.
“It was just his vision, how he thought about the game. He put his vision of the game onto us. It was up to us then to adapt to how he moved. I found that made me better.”
PG: “The next meeting between Kerry and Dublin is monumental, if it happens in the championship and it probably will. A huge, huge game.
“If Kerry win it, I think Kerry will start to redress that imbalance they will have seen over the last couple of years. If Dublin win it, it’s a big backward step for Kerry again. I think Dublin feel they have the upper hand on Kerry at the moment. Results bear that out, apart from the league final.”
LR: “But Kerry could never have an inferiority complex about anybody, could they?”
PG: “I think, regardless, Kerry would always go out thinking they’ll win. I think that has been a weakness in some ways, in some of the teams I played on.”
LR: “In what sense?”
PG: “On any given day, Kerry will go up thinking they can beat whoever’s put before them. They’d have gone into that league final expecting to win, even though the last four or five games Dublin won.
“There’s plusses and minuses to that. Kerry should be better able to cut their cloth to measure some days. We don’t do that very well. That comes from an expectation of winning anyway.”
LR: “Would you say Eamonn Fitzmaurice has cut his cloth a bit in recent games against Dublin?”
PG: “Oh yeah, I think so. He needed to. But I think every team needs to. I think even the Dubs will have to. They’ll have to address it a little bit and say we’re going to have to do things a little bit different if we’re going to beat Mayo again.
“Next time they face Kerry, I think there’s no doubt they’ll cut their cloth a little bit more to measure.
“It’s about possession now. Kerry have had to run it a bit more and keep the ball a bit more. Because over the years, the kicking it in long, we overdid that and got beaten.
“Adaptability is important.”
PG: “You might look for a different half-forward now.”
LR: “So where would Kerry play you now, if they had you?”
PG: “I don’t know. But breaks, breaking ball, you don’t see as much of any more, with the short kickouts. With the mark now as well, breaking ball has moved down the pecking order in terms of importance.
“I’ll watch the games closely this summer and I’ll see. Even at the end of my own career there was just less action around the middle and else competition under kickouts. It was either a short one or goalies were banging it, Cluxton was getting his guy. There wasn’t an opportunity for the midfielder to go up and contest it. He was so good and all the other goalies became so good at finding guys.”
LR: “It’s an interesting time, tactically.
PG: “It is. And I think we’re still only scratching the surface. I think six forwards is too many. I know a lot of teams only play with four or five now, but I think you could play with one or two forwards. I think two midfielders isn’t enough. There’s a case to be made for playing with four midfielders. Three half-backs is probably not enough.”
LR: “An average position map, like you get for Premier League games, would throw up interesting formations.”
PG: “The goalies are the only guys I see with a set position nowadays. The positions are meaningless. Fitness has always been important, but running has now become way more important. There’s a difference between fitness and running. And it’s a running game now, even at inter-county level.
“Shape and tactical awareness is in second place. The running power is the most powerful theme. Dublin have a bit of shape and structure about them. But I thought the league final was very lacking in shape. It was up and down, one end to the other, a bit frantic.”
LR: “You’ve wondered before, if sport should be serious or fun. Did you ever resolve that?”
PG: “It should be fun. It was fun for a lot of my time. And it wasn’t fun for a lot of my time. I was too serious about it. And I found the best football I played I was relaxed and I was enjoying it. And when I got too serious, it wasn’t that much fun.
“It was funny trying to balance myself and my approach. If you want to be the player under breaks, contesting with these guys, big midfielders, you have to be serious, you have to be aggressive, you have to have an aggressive mindset. I had to be that way for a long time.
“But you can go too far down that route. And if you want to be the player who’s on the ball and getting his head up and passing inside and giving a one-two, it’s a balancing act.
“You win it and you’ve got to come out of that mode. Most of the time I was fine, I could do it, But I found it difficult for a while. The competition was so intense, it was hard not to get drawn into it. And you can lose track of other stuff in terms of trying to create something for Gooch or Donaghy or Declan.”
FASHION IT MOVES ON AND ON WHILE THE THINGS WE’VE BOUGHT HAVE BEEN HARDLY WORN
PG: “I’ve a bog suit on the way. We had a meeting the other day, to see will we go with a tailored suit or play around with it a little bit.
“That’s 2018. I’d work three or four years ahead if I could. I have the ideas.”
“But mightn’t trends have changed,” wonders your knowledgeable fashion correspondent, in his bootcut jeans.
“I don’t get too caught up in that.”
He’s wearing Mister, his current collection, inspired by Patrick O’Connell, the Irishman who won La Liga, managing Barcelona.
“Without getting too deep into it, these are more than about clothes. They’re more than fashion stories, they’re cultural stories. I’ve looked at Patrick O’Connell, Beckett, Michael Walker, an Olympian in 1912, a bike courier in 1916 for the rebel side.
“My next one is more contemporary, a look at Peaky Blinders, this guy Thomas Shelby. The one after that is a look at where I’m from, the bog, a collection called Bogman.
“I’ve looked at architecture by Tom de Paor, an Irish architect who built a neolithic tomb out of peat briquettes.
“It’s not just about buying an old trousers or a shirt, you’re buying pieces of culture. There’s a bit of storytelling to it. It gives the label a bit of authenticity.
“You have to make it relatable to young guys. I reference Pep and Mourinho. The modern managers, Zidane, Conte, Simeone, the sideline is the new kind of… I don’t like the word catwalk, I won’t use that… but it’s where the eyes are on.
“They’re the new ambassadors, They’ve brought that look back, that style. They’re so visible and they look the part.”
Back on Penny Lane in Lixnaw, as a kid, running home sidestepping imaginary opponents, Paul Galvin would celebrate scoring last-minute goals, throwing shapes, but only out of sight of the neighbours’ windows. Today, he throws shapes in front of the cars, modelling the threads, as recognisable a face as the GAA has produced these last two decades, a face strangers in shops recognise.
“It’s kind of a funny one. I can be quite shy. And I was quite shy. It’s the paradox of the work.
“Part of it, taking the old photos there, don’t come naturally to me. But you’re in a business where it’s part of it. It’s like every other job, there’s parts of it, where you don’t love it, but you do it. And that can give people the impression that, oh that’s your man again. Which wouldn’t truly be who I am. But you can’t do what I do without getting a few photos taken and wearing the clothes and that.
“I probably would have been uncomfortable with it for a time, but now I’ve learned it’s not a big deal, it’s part of the work, get on with it.”
Adaptability is important.
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