The Ballydonoghue native speaks of how important it is to soak up every last moment of Sam Maguire triumph
An All Ireland final victory is an eternal thing. It follows you for the rest of your days. Even if it doesn’t define a person, it’s a defining moment in a winner’s life.
There are, of course, phases to the experience. Each of them special, though sometimes fleeting as new All Ireland winners soon come to learn. The memories made will last a life-time. Still the essence of the thing needs to be grasped in the here and now.
That’s how Kerry star Jason Foley describes it as he reflects on the two weeks since his first All Ireland Senior Championship success with victory over Galway late last month.
"Just about,” he says with a knowing smile when you ask him has he come back down to earth yet.
The return to club football, as Foley did with his native Ballydonoghue last weekend (bagging a goal in a one-point defeat), almost marks the end of that initial honeymoon period, bringing everybody back to terra firma.
Before then, it’s something of a whirlwind, from the moment the full-time whistle blows it’s go-go-go, from one thing to the next, from one place to another, the sound of applause ringing in your ears all along.
“I don’t think we realised at the time, that that moment passes fairly quickly,” the 24-year-old confides.
"Obviously when the final whistle went it’s a dream you’ve had since you were a kid. That moment, those couple of minutes, that half hour inside the dressing room with the lads... I remember saying to myself I have to cherish this moment because it passes fairly quickly, but it was fairly special.”
Having to move from one phase to the next, to leave the sanctum of the dressing room for instance, must have been something of a jar for the players.
“A small bit yeah,” the Kerry number 3 admits.
"Even leaving the pitch for us. I just wanted to soak it all in, we were going around the pitch for what felt like a long time, but looking back it probably wasn’t.
"In the dressing room you just want to absolutely soak every second of it in and take it all in, because as soon as we left the dressing room obviously it was a little bit of a circus and there was formalities and things like that. We just made sure that we were enjoying the moments.”
That’s not, of course, to say that what’s followed hasn't been enjoyable in its own right. It’s just different. Less intimate for sure with half the county out to greet the returning heroes.
“It feels like that last fortnight has gone really quickly,” Foley reveals.
“It was just day-by-day. It was fantastic to see the support in Tralee and Killarney, Kenmare and Dingle, wherever we went the support was absolutely huge.
"We were treated like royalty for a few days and it was brilliant to be able to bring the cup around to as many parishes and towns and clubs in the county as possible. There’s a lot that obviously goes with winning an All Ireland final. At the moment we’re just trying to soak every little bit of it in.”
Even after his return to the field of play last weekend, there was one last post All Ireland final duty for Foley to undertake, one that’s very close to his heart as he brought Sam Maguire back to his club’s base in Coolard last Monday evening.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he says.
"I’ve no idea what’s planned out there, but I’m sure there will be a big turn out. Looking forward to bringing Sam Maguire back to my own people I suppose. I thought I’d never be saying those words. It’s fantastic, I can’t wait for it.
"Just to see all the people who have helped me from day dot really. It’ll be a nice evening.”
A nice evening at the end of what’s been one hell of a year for the North Kerry man. He looks nailed on for an All Star award and by common consensus he’s really come of age this term in the green and gold.
“I didn't really think like that at the start of the year or even throughout the year,” he says when you put it to him.
"We were just so busy, like game-on-game, especially in the league you don’t really have time to think about anything other than your next opponent, especially during the league and who you’re marking on the weekend, or the next team you’re playing.
"The season just kind of rolls for you and this season rolled for me, and I just took it one week at a time. It suited me. I just took it one week at a time, I didn’t look too far ahead or I didn’t dwell on the past. Took it week on week, whatever job I was given just went out and did it.”
One thing that really stood out as an outside observer was the understanding that was there between the full-back and his colleague at centre-back, Tadhg Morley.
It really did appear as though there was a real partnership between the two men forming the Kingdom’s central defensive axis.
“Myself and Tadhg are playing with each other a good few years at this stage and you have to build up that mental telepathy with each other and, I suppose, in the big moments we rely on each other as a group, as a defence,” Foley explains.
"A few of us have been around the block now a good few years and have been in semi-finals and finals. Relationships build up over time and we’ve a really positive relationship on the field and off the field this year and I think it really helped us this year.”
In as much as there was sheer elation at the full-time whistle there must have been a certain amount of relief too, given the pressure this Kerry side were under to deliver upon their potential, from both internal and external sources.
"There was,” the special needs assistant says.
"I felt a bit of relief. We were in semi-finals and two finals in ‘19. There was a certain amount of pressure on us, just to finally get over the line, of course it was relief. Just to finally get the job done. Pure elation, but there was a bit of relief.”
The focus now turns to the domestic calendar with Foley on hand to help launch the new-look Garvey’s County Senior Football Championship in Austin Stack Park on Monday evening.
The new league based format – with four groups of four – should make for an interesting competition and act as a boon for district sides like Foley’s Shannon Rangers.
“It should,” he agrees.
"I feel like a district side like ourselves, it’ll give us time to figure out who we are and it’s brilliant that we’re able to get more games out of it and we’ll hopefully be able to build game-on-game and maybe gather a bit of momentum.
"I think that’s very important in county championship, especially for a district team. I think it’s brilliant that we're able to come together for more than a game or two.”
As for the continuing discussions about the future of Shannon and Feale Rangers, with a potential amalgamation on the cards, Foley admits to not having thought a huge amount about it.
“I’m not sure. I haven’t really had time to think about it, with all that’s been happening over the last few weeks,” he says.
"It’s only in the last few days that I’ve been asked questions about that. Whatever will be will be, if that's what they decide they're going to do that’s fantastic. If they don’t we’ll just keep ploughing on.
"It’s great to be part of different set-ups, it’s great that clubs can come together and form a district side anyway regardless of whether it’s North Kerry or Shannon Rangers. For now we’re just concentrating on Shannon Rangers.”
With the All Ireland-winning full-back in their ranks, the Rangers are certainly in good hands.