Is Galvin now more trouble than he is worth for Kerry?
Published 16/02/2010 | 05:00
Not long after he was red-carded against Cork in last year's Munster championship semi-final replay, Paul Galvin sought a meeting with Kerry manager Jack O'Connor.
The gist of it was this -- Galvin wanted out. He wanted to bring closure, for the season at least, to his inter-county career.
His tangle with Noel O'Leary, missed by TV cameras but picked up on by a vigilant linesman, had pushed the spotlight on to him once again.
The genesis of their spat in Pairc Ui Chaoimh cannot be determined but suffice to say Galvin felt so hard done by that he contemplated quitting. The frustration of a reputation that was preceding him all the time was becoming too much.
At their Kenmare summit last June, O'Connor wouldn't hear of it however, reassuring Galvin that he had too much to offer and that the incident would quickly be forgotten about.
Within days, Galvin was feeling better about himself and the rest of the season was as smooth as he could ever have wished for.
He even took time out to make his feelings known to Pat McEnaney, the referee who sent him off in Cork, after Kerry's win over Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final, questioning the decision made seven weeks earlier as they exchanged handshakes in the middle of Croke Park.
By September, redemption was his. No player contributed more to Kerry's effort to win a fourth All-Ireland title in six years and he was justly rewarded with the majority of Player of the Year awards on offer.
It looked and felt like he had drawn a line in the sand, that the storm of the past that had whipped up around him had tamed. Footballer of the Year is an accolade not dispensed easily.
But controversy has followed him already this season, on and off the field. Far away from football, events at his place of work, in a Killarney classroom, last month saw him attracting headlines away from the sports pages.
Last weekend his frustration at not being awarded a clear free by referee Rory Hickey in the frantic last few minutes of the Dublin game -- Hickey curiously decided to throw up the ball instead -- led to an incident captured on camera that looked worse than it was with Galvin reaching out to try and grab the official to catch his attention. Given his history with Paddy Russell, it wasn't the wisest reaction but Hickey chose, wisely, not to make anything of it. Still, he had sailed close to the wind.
For Galvin, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid these incidents. Opponents, especially Cork, have clearly identified him as a player to wind up and get involved with knowing his predilection for not backing away. And officials clearly don't believe that the reform in him is as complete as last year would suggest. To them, he is still the enfant terrible of Gaelic football.
By common consensus, he was unlucky to be sent off on Saturday night but that may not wash with the CCCC who may not be too favourably disposed to giving him a break two weeks running.
Within the Kerry camp and around the county there will be strong support for Galvin to ride this latest storm and look to the future.
The only footage that captured the incident that led to red cards on Saturday night showed Galvin being pressed in a headlock by his marker Eoin Cadogan, who was also sent off before being wrestled to the ground.
Apportioning blame as to who started it isn't easy so the linesman that alerted referee Maurice Deegan to the incident erred on the side of caution and identified both. O'Connor is convinced that the bad name he has is undoing him now. His full-back Tommy Griffin concurred yesterday.
"Any day Paul goes out now, there seems to be some bit of controversy afterwards. Through no fault of his own, I think, most of the time," ventured Griffin.
The prospect of being without him for another two months -- provided Kerry's imminent call for the card to be rescinded isn't heeded -- increases O'Connor's conundrum.
Press any inter-county manager to name three players they would love to sign if a transfer market existed and most would see Galvin as their perfect prototype half-forward. His fusion of bite, energy and desire around the park is hard to replicate in a lot of counties.
Asking him to refrain from such confrontation, to dilute his aggression, would act like his very own kryptonite, reducing his impact as a player.
O'Connor would never dream of standing him down because of these recurring incidents but knows that as long as he takes any field his natural instinct is for combat and that won't change. And the risk of losing him so often in the course of games will remain too high.
Looking at Galvin's bowed head after watching Deegan brandish red last Saturday night, it's hard not to imagine Galvin experiencing those same frustrations that led him to touch base with O'Connor last June.
What does he have to do to avoid trouble? The more he seeks to avoid it, the more he finds himself immersed in it.