Anna Galvin full of belief ahead of All-Ireland Final
By John Harrington
Like most neutrals, this time last year Anna Galvin roared the Meath ladies on to victory over Dublin in the 2021 TG4 All-Ireland Senior Final.
On Sunday, Galvin will be very much in the opposite corner to Meath, as captain of the Kerry team hoping to win their first title since 1993.
This is the also the first Final for 20 years that hasn’t included either Cork or Dublin, and Galvin doesn’t mind admitting that Meath shattering the glass ceiling last year filled Kerry with belief they could do something similar.
“It was class,” she says. “Meath now are our biggest enemies at the moment but last year we were roaring and shouting at the TV to go. The game looked like it was sewn up but they were unbelievable. So tuned in. Got themselves over the line. It was class, such an exciting finish. They were deserving winners on the day.
“For the last number of years it has been Cork and Dublin at the top of the pile all of the time. There might have been a change coming but Meath sped it up.
"They were a huge catalyst with that win last year.
“It definitely gave belief to other teams that you don’t need to fear those bigger teams. That anyone can take the prize on the day. It’s been really good for ladies football as well, added a bit of excitement. There was so much talk around the final last year so it’s been all good.”
At the start of the season few would have predicted Kerry as likely All-Ireland champions, but Galvin had no doubts they were good enough to be in the shake-up this year.
And when they won the Division 2 League title, those great expectations felt even more justified.
“Yes, I would have very early on said we were aiming for an All-Ireland final, to be on the steps of the Hogan come All-Ireland final day,” she says.
“And it would have something we would have put down on paper ourselves, that it’s what we would have been aiming for. Then, once that was laid out, we very much reigned it back in and looked at it step by step then.
“Come league final day, our focus was massively on that hurdle. Then take it step by step into Munster and then the All-Ireland series. And we’ve found ourselves here now.
“There’s no point setting out at the start of the year without aiming for the pinnacle, the ultimate prize.
“Maybe there’s a bit of naivete, a bit of cockiness as well. But when you are trying to build a team you have to have belief. You’re one of the senior players on the team and if you don’t believe you can be in an All-Ireland final then what hope have you of buy-in from the younger girls and everybody else on the team?
“And if the players don’t have buy-in, how are you going to expect the management to have the same level of buy-in? You have to be aiming for the best, have that belief in yourselves. And we’ve always had that. Always felt we could get to an All-Ireland final.
“We’ve had excellent teams, just probably been a bit uncomposed, fallen short at the bigger hurdles. But those games have often been games where we felt we underperformed. We’ve learnt a lot over the last 10 years or so.
“We’ve worked on that composure piece. It’s fallen into place well this year.
"Remaining calm. We might have panicked at times previously. It definitely has been something we identified as being important, that composure piece.
"We possibly didn’t take those opportunities for goals and scores when they arose.
“They don’t come around too often, especially against a team as excellently set up as Meath. We’ll have to do the same again on Sunday.
“The girls have been absolute sharpshooters, so good in front of goals. Very calm again. Those two in combination with each other are the ingredients in getting us here.”
Galvin was a member of the Kerry panel when they last reached an All-Ireland Final in 2012. 10 years on she’s a much more experienced person and player.
"God, yeah. I was asked what do I remember of the All-Ireland Final 10 years ago, that was my first season in. I never had a chance in hell of coming on in that game.
“Landing into Croke Park, 17 years old, I was blown away. It was amazing and it was a fantastic experience to be here but I was so overwhelmed. Whereas now, it's class to be saying it, but you take these things a little bit more in your stride. We're here more regularly, we've been here a couple of times in the last few years and that helps as well.
“But, yeah, it has evolved loads. I've had a chance to play with amazing footballers within Kerry and within UL as well where I went to College. I've gotten to experience what really top-class management teams look like. The lads, Declan (Quill) and Darragh (Long), have brought that on so much, and how important that is to making a team environment on where the players can perform then for the team.
“So, yeah, there's been loads of changes over the course of the years that I can see and identify strengths and weaknesses on the pitch and within myself, but also I'm more tuned into what's very important off the pitch as well.”
Ladies Football has evolved considerably as a sport since Galvin’s first season of inter-county football 10 years ago.
There’s been a strength and conditioning revolution in the interim, and the Kerry captain can only laugh now at how little she knew about that aspect of training when she first started out.
“I would have been very light,” she says. “I remember doing one-rep max tests in the gym at the start, I remember doing it and not being in a gym ever. I couldn't even bench the bar! I often think back to that.
“I still would have been relatively strong, I think maybe over the course of the years how tuned it is to the needs of the game has changed. You'd have been running for massive endurance, but realistically it's speed endurance that you need.
“There's a lot more knowledge around what the demands of the game actually are and what strengths you need. There would have been silly things of girls not wanting to do weights because it will make them look too strong and things like that.
“There was those kind of notions, people used to talk a little bit about that. That was something that was being talked about back then, whereas now, thankfully, it doesn't even come to the table at all around strength training.
“It's just part and parcel of being an inter-county player that there's strength training in it - for the ladies as well. Definitely, I was a little weakling!”
She has few memories of that 2012 All-Ireland Final defeat to Cork apart from being “like a Duracell Bunny on the sideline” when she did an over-excited warm-up.
The fall-out from the defeat has always stayed with her, though, and provided fuel for her inner fire ever since.
“I'd remember the disappointment afterwards. I feel like because I was so young I was obviously gutted that we didn't get over the line, but more so gutted for my team-mates because they were the ones that had really gotten us there and been fighting to get to that position for so long.
“Hopefully now that team and their determination and dedication...like, the team didn't fall away after that, it really, really stuck at it for so many years after that. They kept fighting and coming back year on year, and that determination was just something to behold and has probably been a huge driver for me as well over the years.
“I learned from them and learned to keep my head down and work hard and it can pay off.
“I'm really, really delighted to be involved in a team that has got us back here and it would be really lovely to lift the Brendan Martin Cup for those girls.”