Geaney ‘fresh & eager’ to keep Kingdom flame burning

In previous years, Paul Geaney gave retirement serious consideration.

Significant amount of time on the treatment table, both as soon as he joined the Kerry set-up and on a number of occasions since, limited his game time, limited his enjoyment. It began to chip away at his motivation.

A sparkling club campaign in 2021, which led into Kerry’s all-conquering 2022 season, and it’s not hard to see why the 32-year-old says it was never an option to join David Moran in hanging up the inter-county boots.

“In years gone by it probably wasn’t as clear cut as it was for me this year,” he told RTÉ Sport on remaining at the inter-county coalface.

“I probably would have been more inclined to step away a couple of years ago than I would be now.

“I’m fresh and eager to play football and I’m enjoying my football as much as I ever have, if not more than some of my mid-twenties.

“I think that’s the key.”

He won’t be togging out for the trip to Donegal – indeed manager Jack O’Connor will be without two-thirds of his All-Ireland final winning team for various reasons – due to a minor procedure on his ankle before Christmas, but the desire to get going again is palpable.

Paul Geaney was speaking at the launch of the 2023 Allianz Football League

In part, it’s down to lost time.

Having joined the panel in 2011, it would be another two years before he made his championship debut, but a combination of injuries and preparation halted his early progress.

A Celtic Cross in 2014 was sandwiched by a litany of setbacks.

Hamstring issues and back spasms were the beginning of it. It quickly deteriorated. A shoulder injury and surgery for broken vertebrae was followed by cyst growth inside the spinal cord leading to leg pain.

For all his misfortune, there is a certain level of responsibility he accepts for those challenging early seasons in green and gold.

“The first couple of years were difficult because I hadn’t learned how to train at that point, I hadn’t learned how to conduct myself maybe off the field, how to treat my body around training.

Sometimes it can mentally grind you down; you get tired of it, or your head is turned by other opportunities, you might be wanting a new challenge. That happened to me a little bit

“When I got into the squad, I finally started putting the pieces together. Bar the injury setbacks in those early years, I learned a lot early.

“I was probably 23 or 24 at that stage so I was well matured in that sense, but in the next couple of years I lived by all the learnings I had. Once those pieces fall into place it becomes a lot easier. Then it’s about staying on top of it.

“Sometimes it can mentally grind you down; you get tired of it, or your head is turned by other opportunities, you might be wanting a new challenge. That happened to me a little bit.

“My form probably dipped in those couple of months in the years where that was the case. I just went back to the basics then. I loved the routine of it all again afterwards and in the last couple of years I’ve just loved going through the grind of training.”

Fueling the Kingdom is a desire to keep Sam Maguire within county boundaries for 2023.

Last year’s success – league, Munster, All-Ireland – was shared with his two kids, son Paídí and daughter Christina.

Paídí’s presence on the pitch after some big championship wins was special for both father and son.

“Going into senior infants the month after the final, when we brought in the cup too, he was the talk of the class!

Paul Geaney and his son Paidí enjoy the aftermath of victory in last year’s All-Ireland football final

“His classmates are getting into it now as well. Some of them are football mad! They know who his dad was so it was probably cool for him alright. He might get sick of it in time.”

It’s a far cry from his 2014 All-Ireland winning campaign. Back then his primary concern was “going out the door in the morning and made sure I came back in one piece” but running a bar and looking after a young family with wife Siún, daughter of Kerry legend Páidí Ó Sé, offers a different perspective .

2022 was a cherished and shared experience.

“There’s definitely an extra level of satisfaction as throughout the year you are putting in all the work and they (family) are putting in all the sacrifice to facilitate you.

“When it is somebody’s other time you are committing, my wife’s time to mind the two kids when I’m training, and the whole calendar is revolving around my training schedule, it is very rewarding when you win and they get to share in that rather than a disappointing year when things don’t go your way.”

As Moran exits the Kerry stage, others will come and stake a claim, but filling the boots of the gifted three-time All-Ireland winner will be no mean feat.

“His kick-passing was second to none and when he was on the ball, you knew more often than not that the ball was coming. So it was an easy one to make the run when David was on the ball.

Munster final celebrations last year for David Moran and his son Eli, with Paul Geaney and son Páidí in the background

“He’s been an ever-present during my career with Kerry, and always leading the way so I’ll miss him big time yeah.”

Two months after helping Kerry to a 38th Sam Maguire, the two crossed paths in club action, Geaney tearing Kerins O’Rahilly’s to shreds in a one-sided group game, plundering 2-04 from play.

Dingle’s journey came to an end at the hands of East Kerry, but that form pre-surgery could be a sign of things to come in the season ahead.

With the bulk of the Kerry side that went down to Dublin in the 2019 All-Ireland final after a replay still involved, there is a feeling that this mature team could be primed for silverware collecting.

Geaney’s mission is to add another few chapters before the curtain comes down, just don’t call him an elder statesman of the team

“I’d feel a lot better now if it wasn’t the rhetoric going forward now that Geaney is the oldest! But look, there’s not much of a difference. Maturity wise, the team is very mature.

“Career-length wise, I think as long as you’re fresh upstairs and willing to put in the necessary requirements, I don’t think age is a factor, unless you have a serious injury or other demands.”

Follow Mayo v Galway (throw-in 7.30pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport or the RTÉ News app, alternatively watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, from 7.15pm. Highlights and reaction to all the weekend’s action on Allianz League Sunday on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 9.30pm.

Live commentary and updates also on Saturday Sport and Sunday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1.

Leave a Comment