Sport Gaelic Football

Sunday 18 February 2018

Galvin's journey merits day in the sun

John Galvin has the chance to finally secure a Munster title on Sunday.
John Galvin has the chance to finally secure a Munster title on Sunday.

colm keys

That John Galvin should admit this week that he strongly contemplated dropping the anchor on his inter-county football career should come as no surprise to any who stood to listen to him in the boardroom of Pairc Ui Chaoimh almost 12 months ago to the day.

Galvin's Limerick had just lost the Munster football final to Cork by a point. Moreover, the feeling of being witness to some grand larceny could not be avoided.

Two goals from a Cork team who hadn't known a worse Munster championship day for some time stole it. Limerick's hesitancy also played its part.

In Galvin's words, it was easy to detect the hurt. This one wasn't for parcelling quickly and storing away.

"To tell you the truth, 113 years doesn't bother me. All I know is I'm playing 11 years and I haven't won one," he reflected.


All around him the walls were heaving with pictures of great Cork teams in hurling and football, a reminder of the bedevilling elements of tradition when you don't have one.

"I've had enough of it," he sighed. "We've been a nearly team for years like. The problem with nearly teams is that if they don't make it, they die a year or two later. You need to win something to keep up the spirit."

By then, Galvin's spirits were clearly flagging. They were raised for a qualifier with Meath later in the month, but when that was gone the realisation of a third Munster final defeat sunk in.

For Galvin, it was a third such defeat from four, the only solace coming from the 2004 drawn final in the Gaelic Grounds that had its own basket of regrets.

There's only so much a man can take and that afternoon in Cork, Galvin looked to have reached his limit. But Galvin has dragged himself back through the backwaters of the league basement last spring to within 70 minutes of liberation again.

This time there's a sense of finality about it. "It would be a fitting reward for John Galvin to win a Munster medal, given how he has stayed the pace," admits Muiris Gavin, his old centre-forward colleague from Liam Kearns' days in charge.

"He has hung in there through some tough times and he's come out the other end. For the first two years of Mickey Ned O'Sullivan's term, things hit a trough.

"It was after Liam had gone, with the disappointment of those Munster final defeats, the dual players committed to the hurlers and others just left for one reason or another.

"Those were difficult times. But John stood his ground. He, as much as anyone, dragged Limerick back to where they are now," says Gavin.

Kearns reckons Galvin is one of the most intelligent footballers on the circuit, receptive to any tactic he may be asked to carry out. "It's my belief that he got that from a grounding in basketball. You could ask John to carry out any instruction on a football field and he'd do it to a tee," says Kearns.

In 2004 Kearns pulled a rabbit from the hat, posting Galvin to full-forward on Mike McCarthy, whom he sensed was aerially suspect. It didn't work the first day in the Gaelic Grounds, but in the replay a week later, Galvin wreaked havoc on the Kerry full-back line.

"Unfortunately John Quane, who had been such a force for us the first day, started to struggle in the replay," adds Kearns. "He was well into his 30s and had given his all in the drawn game. We needed John back out there to go man-to-man with Darragh (O Se)."

With O Se there was strong combative rivalry. When the great Kerry leader stepped down in February he listed the midfielders that provided him with the sternest challenges.

Paul McGrane, Niall Buckley and Ciaran Whelan were mentioned. Galvin was also listed among such illustrious company, something which Gavin says gives testimony to his status within the game as one of the primary midfielders.

Twice in league matches in 2004 and 2007 O Se was sent off after clashes with Galvin, whose robust style and aerial ability posed so many problems.

"I never went out on the field for Limerick when John Galvin was playing when I didn't feel we would be on the front foot because of midfield dominance," Gavin reveals.

Basketball could conceivably have become a career in his late teens when there was talk of scholarships to the US after his days under the watchful eye of Tommy Hehir at Ard Scoil Ris were over.

His 6' 4" frame complemented his ability with a ball. There was representation with Ireland junior teams and success on the national stage with Burger King Limerick.

But football had a strong hold too. His father John is a Kerryman originally from Finuge and currently the Limerick Football Board chairman, a link that provides its own natural umbilical chord to the game.

Kearns believes winning the Munster U-21 title in 2000 and reaching a subsequent All-Ireland final helped to steer him away from a life on the courts.

"Basketball helped to shape his Gaelic football," he says. "He's well able for the rough and tumble around midfield, not just because of his size, but his awareness too.

"If there is a deficiency in his game, it is his kicking. But, in everything else, he's very strong."

Kearns thinks so much of Galvin that he would give consideration to asking him to assume responsibility for marking the in-form Kieran Donaghy.

"Donaghy is in magnificent form for Kerry, but John Galvin would be capable of picking him up," figures Kearns. In a 'questions and answers' profile he conducted around 2000, just as he was embedding himself as Limerick's primary midfielder for the next decade, Galvin was asked how he would like to be remembered.

His answer was self deprecating: "Who was the tall guy with the very bad kick?"

By Sunday evening he'll hope for a different epitaph, something like the tall guy who improved his kicking immeasurably and understood how perseverance can bring success.

Irish Independent

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