'Sem' hoping Galvin inspires Hogan glory
NO ONE is quite sure how he will play when he returns to action for Kerry tomorrow, but there is no doubt that Paul Galvin will be a key factor on the sideline in Croke Park this afternoon.
The controversial Kerry star will be in headquarters for the All-Ireland Colleges SFC final as his St Brendan's side go in search of their third Hogan Cup title.
'The Sem', as Brendan's is known locally, face a St Colman's of Newry side coached by another former All-Ireland winner, Down's Cathal Murray, who is also rumoured to have recruited the Mourne men's former Aussie Rules star Martin Clarke to help with preparations.
It may be a battle of the big names on the sidelines, but it will be the students who will take centre stage on the hallowed turf this afternoon, with college football's most prestigious title at stake.
Nevertheless, 'the Sem' manager Gary McGrath believes that Galvin's influence has been crucial to the team in their build-up to a second Hogan Cup final in three years -- they lost to St Pat's Dungannon in 2008.
"Every time he speaks, the lads just listen and absorb it all," said McGrath of the three-time All Star. "He's great this week talking to them about preparation, what to expect from the pitch and what to expect in the build-up, also with their diets and so on.
"It's brilliant because he's been there and done that and the knowledge he has, he's just passing it on to the lads and they're just absorbing it."
McGrath is very much aware of the reports of Down star Clarke helping in the background for St Colman's, but he knows that the recruitment of high-profile names is part and parcel of the preparations for such an immense occasion.
"Every school at this level is going to have somebody; I think they were up looking at Croke Park recently but schools will do what they need to do for their own preparations," said McGrath.
"Paul has been great to us throughout the year; every ounce of commitment he had, he gave to us and the lads just enjoy working with him because his knowledge is phenomenal. You need to have been on both sides, the winning and the losing of a game like this, to really appreciate it, which he has been, and he's just a great help."
The record of Kerry colleges in the Hogan Cup can be best described as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. And 'the Sem' is a school which epitomises that perplexing aspect to the history of football in the Kingdom.
With 20 Corn Ui Mhuiri titles, they are the kingpins of the college game in Munster. But they have only progressed to All-Ireland glory on two occasions -- in 1969 and 1992. St Jarlath's of Tuam boast 10 more national titles, despite coming from a county which has lifted the Sam Maguire just nine times (in comparison to Kerry's 36), while today's opponents St Colman's have six Hogan Cups to their name.
McGrath goes some way in explaining the imbalance. "The Munster colleges don't win the Hogan Cup too often; last year Sceilge won it but before that it was 1996 when Killorglin won it," he said
"It's just the standard in Ulster and the other provinces in the colleges game seems to be a lot higher-grade than it is in Munster.
"But traditionally in Munster there's an awful lot of schools, so we'd have about 520 boys and I think Colman's would have about 950 boys; they've a bigger pick to choose from.
"And then I suppose in Munster you have all these factors that come into it; maybe a lot of the schools would say they've been unlucky not to win it.
"We'd be the kingpins in Munster with 20 titles but we've only won this twice and there have only been four Hogan titles to come to Kerry in total."
Once in a lifetime then for the Kerry giants?
"We know they're very precious," he said. "They don't come too often so we're here now and we really want to win this final."