AS the Dingle players streamed off the Austin Stack Park pitch moments after their semi-final win over St Kierans no one celebrated more that Daithi Geaney. Coming through the wall of noise that greeted the team, Geaney swung out of the bar over the pitchside gates like a gymnast before dismounting and shaking a defiant fist at the rapturous Dingle fans in the stand.
To some it might have seemed a little over the top: GAA players usually fall over themselves in their efforts to seem modest and humble, and a muted response to winning games other than finals is regarded as de rigueur. To others Geaney's unbridled joy was refreshing and welcome: this was a player wearing his emotions on his sleeve in front of his own people who were equally as ecstatic.
At 27 years of age it's hard to imagine that Daithi Geaney is in his tenth year of playing senior football. In that decade he has collected medals and accolades, worns several jerseys of different hues and got a run with the county senior team, but nothing meant as much to him as reaching his first county senior championship final with his club. His people. He is acutely aware that it has been 61 years since a Dingle team contested a county final, and now that he is based in Dublin, where he teaches in a Gaelscoil in Donaghmede on the north side, Geaney appreciates even more that county final appearances don't come around every year.
"This is my tenth year playing senior football and I suppose there are times that you would think that the day would never come. As fellows get older they have to make serious decisions about work and about their personal lives and things like that. Unfortunately for us, a lot of us are based away. I remember looking at the county league final panel last year and out of the twentyseven, there was twenty of them based at least two and half hours away, which is a difficulty. But the older you get, fellows have to figure out where they want to settle, and where they can get jobs and stuff so in this day and age, that becomes harder.
"But we have been very lucky here in Dingle, we have lost a few but not a whole lot, considering where we are located. There are fellows who were based away who are starting to filter back which is great. A lot of the lads got very lucky with jobs, like Johnny B (Brosnan) got one in Tralee, he would have been in Limerick for years, and now he is living in Dingle and it's benefiting us. Then again, a lot of our younger players are in college and whether things will change in the future, it's hard to know. So that is why we are thinking we have to make hay now, while we have this squad together, because we don't know what is around the corner," he suggests.
On this team Daithi is joined by his brother Mikey and their cousin, Paul, and there's no denying that between them they form a pretty impressive fifty per cent of the team's forward division. Yet, Daithi rejects out of hand that this Dingle team is centred around one name, one family, or that there is any extra pressure on the triumvirate to perform.
"It doesn't really add any pressure. The reason that caper came about, talking about the three of us with the same surname, was that we are back here, based back here, and there isn't a whole pile of talk about us in the media. So when reporters come back, a lot of them wouldn't know our players so they focus on Paul, who has played in the National League, or Mikey, who is now on the Kerry senior panel, so it's an easy way out of it.
"But if you examine it, people know our players this year. Brendan Kelliher has had been hugely influential for us this year, our backs have been excellent all year, Gavan Curran really only came on the scene over the last couple of years, Billy O'Connor has now got a name for scoring goals. So we have been very lucky to pick up players along the way.
"Myself, Paul and Mikey were reared back in Cluais, kicking ball with the lads [Daithi's father Daithi senior, and uncles Paul, Colm and Sean]. So is there pressure? There is pressure from home and that's it," he says.
And now that Dingle have arrived in the final is there pressure on that front?
"Well this year we are very serious about how we approach the game. The lads are fierce dedicated to the training and the preparation, but this year we decided that we approach things in a relaxed manner. It's grand to say that we have not been reaching our potential but we only went senior in '06 and that's only six years ago. We have been developing bit by bit and the few years were all about adjusting to the step up. People were saying that we should go back in with West Kerry but as a group of players we had no interest in it. We made the semi-final in 2010, and then while we slipped up last year against East Kerry, there have been only a couple of blips. Personally I think that we have been making progress and we are on an upward curve.
"Fellows are getting older and physically they are developing but we are more relaxed. I think that during the week Noel O'Leary [Dr Crokes manager] said that all the pressure was on us (Dingle). I think I looked at Paddy Powers last night and we are 4/1 against. Nobody is under any illusions. There is no pressure on us. The pressure is on the Crokes. We are utterly relaxed about it, and we will give it a go. I would not say that we have nothing to lose because you are in a county final, of course you have something to lose, but nobody expects anything from us except ourselves so it's not a bad way to be going into a county final," the business studies schoolteacher says.
Relaxed seems to be the key word.
"I think that the difference this year, compared to any other year, is that we are a way more relaxed. Everybody is so relaxed and nobody is under any pressure or
suffering from any nerves. Especially the younger fellows, there is nobody trying to gee anybody else up, it's just a case of everybody getting on with the job. I think that is the big difference this year, that everybody has matured a small bit and we are treating every game as it comes."
Already in this championship Dingle have scored 12 goals in four matches. Daithi, the team's chief free taker, has converted two penalties, but in the games against Kilcummin and St Kierans his team has scored just five points in each game. A concern?
"The reason that we are not kicking points is that we are kicking goals instead," he says matter-of-factly. "I remember last year sitting down and having discussions with Murt (Moriarty) about the fact that we were not getting any goals. Although we were putting up big scores, even up to twenty points some days, it mightn't have been enough to win games at times. We are not kicking (big tallies of) points every game, that's true, but we are winning games and we are happy enough if that is the way it is to continue."
Whether Dingle go the green flag or the white flag route remains to be seen, but either way they won't have come up against a team like Dr Crokes in this championship so far. Feale Rangers and St Kierans, for all their star players and their potential, were in the same place as Dingle in trying to get to a county final. A Colm Cooper led Dr Crokes, going for a third consecutive county title, will be an altogether different proposition for Geaney and his team mates.
"We beat them in the county league and I remember reading in the paper that they were without their county boys, but we were missing eight and the general public did not know that. We will give it our best shot and see what happens. It is no secret the talent the Crokes have at their disposal in their forward line. If you look at Kieran O'Leary, he is probably, of all the boys in the county panel, the most hard done by over the past few years. For talent Kieran is just outstanding and he does not get the credit that he is due.
"Brian Looney probably deserves more than he has got. Then you have Jamie Doolan who is playing out of his skin and is probably their best performer this year. So how do you tackle them and curb them? You go with your match-ups and we know our match-ups and we know our system. You know how hard our backs work and they will be working even harder next Sunday," he asserts.
Relaxed - that word again - and confident at Saturday's press briefing, Geaney reflected on his brief sojourn with the Kerry senior panel, which amounted to a handful of cameo appearances, mostly in the McGrath Cup.
"It was a struggle in the long term. When you come out of minor and out of U-21 you think that you will get more chances than you do. I suppose it did not come about, I made it come about. It was something that I really worked for and I got in there. I would never say that it was a distraction; it's your bread and butter while you are in there, you work hard while you are in there.
"It did not work out and it's behind me now. It's absolutely behind me. I will be 28 next year and if I was in Eamonn Fitzmaurice's shoes I would be bringing in young fellows. I would not be bringing in 28 year olds," he says emphatically, drawing a line under his inter-county career. "Circumstances change. If you are a developing a team a 27-year old is not much good to you. It is a young man's game and it does take time to put together a plan, so Kerry is not for me."
So, as far as he is concerned one chapter in his football career is most definitely closed. Sunday, however, is another story. It's a county final. His first county final.
Daithi Geaney exudes a quiet confidence - never arrogance - and why wouldn't he. He has soldiered with brother, cousin, friend and neighbour for a decade and more to get to this day. He knows he deserves to be here because he has worked hard to be here.
Should Dingle win expect Daithi Geaney not to swing out of the Austin Stack Park gate but to pole vault it. And why not?
Make hay...and all that.