Monday 25 September 2017

Galvin walking a fine line

From tears after Tyrone to controversy against Clare.

That Paul Galvin never fails to disappoint continues to be a truism that remains as relevant as Kerry's presence in high championship summer, as the aristocrats plotted their way into a 12th successive All-Ireland quarter-final.

On Saturday in Limerick, Jack O'Connor's men surgically performed their accountancy ahead of this weekend's Donegal quarter-final, notice of which had grown men swooning on the pitch afterwards as news of the eagerly anticipated draw came though.

Tomas O Se's championship record 82nd appearance? Check. Colm Cooper's smashing of Mikey Sheehy's 25-year-old championship scoring record of 29-205 with 1-4 to stretch to 19-240? Check. Routine disembowelment of bothersome neighbours with summary ease? Check.

All the ducks were in a row.

Then Galvin deigned to produce a shotgun and blast the head clean off one of the ducks.

Firstly, an innocuous tangle with Enda Coughlan, a mere handshake compared to last week's demeaning spectacle in Killarney. A yellow card.

No problem. He had soldiered for 50 minutes beneath such a burden in last week's toxic clash of the heavyweights.

In any event, the game is up. O'Connor and his wise men withdraw two of their half-forwards. Galvin is the only one left in the line.

Notable Kerry sages bow their heads in anguish then nod severely. Mistake. Big mistake. Soon, Galvin's game is up.

timing

When O'Connor is reminded of the timing of his double substitution -- "Oh it was yeah, it was, it was..." -- it's as if he has just forgotten his wife's birthday.

Surely it must have been prudent to politely invite Galvin to partake of an early shower before being ushered under his own steam?

"It was, it was, it was," he offers with rhythmical lamentation. "It was to be sure."

Two minutes after Galvin's first offence, in what was hitherto a vacant plot of land where a normally bustling middle third of championship fare should be, erstwhile enemy John Hayes appeared into view.

Like Wile E Coyote and Road Runner, this is a cartoon duel that has history. Four years ago, the pair's tussle prompted 'notebook-gate'.

Despite 'fishhook-gate' and 'O'Leary-gate', it was felt that Galvin's demeanour had recovered its poise, backboned by his outstanding individual displays over recent summers.

The appearance of Hayes, though, prompted Galvin to come over all Popeye, albeit on a live showing it appeared that the Clare man may have ducked into Galvin's inappropriate flexing of his muscles.

No matter.

Deegan, not averse to showing Galvin the line in his call of duty, did so once more, producing both yellow and red simultaneously to confuse several colourblind people in the stand, including the man from the Irish Independent.

Galvin opted not to inspect Deegan's private papers, unlike with Paddy Russell four years ago.

But Kerry will hope that the Finuge man's subsequent invitation to Clare centre-back Gordan Kelly to stage their own private CCCC hearing won't alert the authorities.

"I think the yellow cards were harmless enough," demurred O'Connor. "He just went to tackle a fella and he ducked into him and it looked high.

"But look, Paul is playing great stuff and we wanted him to keep the momentum going. Unfortunately, he got the second yellow but at that stage the game was done and dusted."

Pressed as to how one week Galvin could command his control with such an unshakeable sense of his emotional intelligence but snap seven days later, O'Connor's inscrutability probably echoed his own confusion.

"That's your opinion," he responded, before elaborating, "disappointed of course. He got two yellows. Fellas are tackling, he mistimed the tackle. That's the way it looked to me."

Creation and destruction.

Both remain Galvin's trademark. Until his moments of madness, he was in supreme command of his physical and mental self, whether peppering perceptive passes hither and thither or hoovering up an ocean of ball in the middle third.

The only consolation for Kerry and Galvin is that he will be available for the Donegal encounter.

Nonetheless, if Kerry are as spooked by the Ulster men as O'Connor expressed, Jim McGuinness and his men will be licking their lips in anticipation of extending the hand of friendship to GAA's most loved/hated -- delete according to your fancy -- villain.

For nothing Donegal will have seen here will have spooked them, regardless of Kerry's imperious ability with the ball against negligible opposition.

"It's going to be a massive battle, we're well aware of that," admitted O'Connor, fresh from erasing the hurt from a decade of northern exposure to unfamiliar footballing traits, only now to be confronted by another one coming swiftly down the line.

"These Donegal fellas have pushed back the frontiers in terms of fitness and tackling and getting a great defensive system.

"It'll be a huge challenge for us to break that down. We're not expecting a pile of pretty football in Croke Park.

"We'll be doing our best to keep it as open as we can. We know what we're up against.

"I was in Croke Park last year and it was Gaelic football as we've never seen it before. And that's a massive challenge for us as coaches and players and management to break it down.

"Funny enough, I had a sneaking feeling we'd get Donegal. Maybe I should start backing horses. I said a week ago we'd get 'em, I don't know why.

"Sure Jim McGuinness has a fantastic system going for them and they've improved from last year when they were only a kick of a ball from getting to a final. They've certainly moved the goalposts as far as strategy in Gaelic football is concerned, so it's going to be a huge test.

"We'll have a look at them, I haven't watched them very closely. But they've looked very impressive in dispatches I've seen.

"They put Down away fairly handily in the Ulster final. They'll be determined. They've their eyes on more than an Ulster title, there's no secret in that. They've some outstanding footballers.

"Michael Murphy is probably the outstanding full-forward in the game at the moment and they've massive reservoirs of strength and fitness built up."

Kerry will adopt the familiar pose of ageing gunslingers against brash, bullying northerners.

"We'll see how the legs of some of these Kerry fellas hold up," O'Connor smiled. "A lot of fellas are saying that when we get to Croke Park that maybe it'll expose our legs. But sure we'll see about that."

Galvin will head the gunslingers. He will be mindful of keeping his gun in his holster.

Irish Independent

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