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I've become wiser and learned to pick my battles – Galvin

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Never one for convention, Paul Galvin has brought the beard back into GAA fashion

Never one for convention, Paul Galvin has brought the beard back into GAA fashion

SPORTSFILE

Never one for convention, Paul Galvin has brought the beard back into GAA fashion

PAUL GALVIN has given himself a clean bill of health.

He awoke the morning after, still nursing a slight headache from a collision with a Tipperary defender in the second half of Sunday's Munster championship quarter-final, which left him out cold for a few seconds.

"I was fine on Monday morning, except for my head. My body felt fine, but I didn't sleep great and my head was sore.

"I managed to knock myself out. I came around quickly, though," he recalls.

It got him thinking about the hits he has given and taken in a decade in the trenches for Kerry.

Nothing defines Galvin as a footballer more than the warrior in him. It's a part of his game by which he will regularly test himself. Often, he acknowledges, he will come off second best.

There was Ciaran Whelan in the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final with Dublin. Galvin, then one of Jack O'Connor's championship rookies, picked his moment to collide into Dublin's biggest unit. What would his high watermark for such contact be?

JUGGERNAUT

"I went for a big hit on him," he says. That was a Sunday. By the Thursday I was still (shaken). It was like a car crash.

"People were calling me and I'd be like (he twists his back slowly to demonstrate the stiffness he felt)...

"The hits are big if you go for them. It depends who you are going for. I would have been used to the Ciaran Whelans."

Kevin Cassidy was another juggernaut that pushed him onto the margin.

"I remember above in Ballyshannon (in a league game) and I just hit Cassidy. The next thing I was on the ground looking around wondering what had hit me."

The years have brought him more wisdom, though. He has learned to choose his hits a little more wisely now. He knows his body better and its capacity for contact.

"I think, physically, I have got better over the years. I know what to do. When I was younger I wasn't as clever in how I used my body, number one, and how I conditioned it, number two.

"I think I'm a little bit better in keeping strong and picking my hits. I have become more clever."

All told, this is Galvin's 10th championship season since O'Connor sent him in as Kerry's antidote to the medicine Tyrone had served the previous year.

Physically, he's sure he could keep his Kerry shirt for another few years. Career-wise, he's not so certain.

After last year's defeat to Donegal he "thrashed around a bit" the idea of retirement.

"Then when Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) got the nod there was no decision to make," Galvin insists.

But the development of his website, thisispaulgalvin.com, prioritising his thoughts and angles on fashion, creativity and music are taking him down various paths that may not be entirely compatible with his life as a Kerry footballer. He's conscious of the potential "baggage" being brought into a dressing room.

"I'm lucky that I can come around pretty quickly, aerobically and in terms of getting my fitness up. Usually three or four weeks and I am up to pace. My weight is quite good.

"But the physical stuff wouldn't be the issue. Career-wise I'd have to weigh things up. I have probably put an awful lot of stuff on hold for football, things that I've started to tap into a little bit.

"The website and the advertising deal (he will unveil a grooming product – Layrite – for sale online next month in partnership with a barber from Limerick) would be one of them and there's lots of other stuff in that field that I would like to develop.

"I love to write. I enjoy social media and I enjoy fashion. You have to have that platform. So, I mean I'm able to indulge in all the things that I'm interested in.

"I wanted to just express my interests a little bit more. It's turned into a business for me really. It's been good," he admits.

"I found teaching, you know, the routine of it, like I wouldn't be great with routine. The conventional side of it, I found it difficult.

"For three years I have been balancing my life in terms of making a little bit of a living, but being mindful of my responsibilities to Kerry. Not bringing too much of the baggage that is there, for better or worse.

"Not bringing too much of that to bear in the Kerry football set-up. So for me it'll be a case of weighing up different things rather than how I am physically."

Galvin admits that his interest in fashion and lifestyle has brought its own challenges and "a level of attention to me that I didn't see coming."

"You know, it's probably a little bit... it's not your kind of, what would I say, a GAA player and fashion don't go together and it's a bit unconventional and that.

"I think it brings a level of, what would I say, attention and, it's, you know, kind of unusual."

But there has been no increase in sledging or verbal abuse delivered his way as a consequence, he acknowledges.

Despite his own public testimony that he was spat at during the All-Ireland intermediate club final in February, while playing for Finuge against Cookstown, he says there is a level of two-way "respect" between himself and opponents that safeguards that to some extent.

"I think there's a level of respect there that I always give to opponents and that I've had from opponents and I'm grateful for that to be honest," he concedes.

Under Fitzmaurice Galvin notes a shift in training techniques and senses a need to "innovate" again to try to be the team that everyone is trying to catch.

"(You come from a position) Where you kind of want to play it the way you traditionally play it and you lean towards that; you are made that way and it is your natural way of playing.

"It might be successful for a while and then you get blown out of the water and you have to rethink the whole thing again.

"It has kind of been a pattern for Kerry in the past while and I think it's time maybe for us to possibly innovate a little bit."

Donegal have certainly got him thinking. The All-Ireland quarter-final last August challenged him mentally as much as any game he has played.

"For me, I found I only got to grips with the game maybe coming to half-time.

"Credit to them for that, I always think you have to be a team like that; the team that is pushing the envelope a little bit in terms of how you are playing and people are looking at you wondering 'what are these guys doing?"

"But I think you can get too caught up in looking at what other teams are doing. That has never served us very well in the past."

Irish Independent