Kerry veteran Geaney feeling fresher than ever
By John Harrington
His old mucker David Moran might have hung up his inter-county boots but there was no chance that Kerry attacker Paul Geaney was going to follow suit.
He’s now the longest serving player in the Kingdom panel having first joined it in 2011, but at the age of 32 he’s as feeling as fresh as ever.
He scored 25 points between the League and the Championship last year and clearly has plenty still to offer the cause, so the decision to hang around for a 13th season was an easy one for him to make.
“This year was, yeah,” he says. “In years gone by it probably wasn't as clear cut as it was for me this year. I probably would have been more inclined to step away a couple of years ago than I would be now.
“Considering how fresh and eager I am to get going again and psychologically I'm as fresh as I've ever been .
“I had a good season last year. I had a very good season in the county championship. So it was a good way to end the year.
“I've a small bit of time now at the moment trying to rehab an ankle that was causing me a bit of bother all of last year.
“So hopefully I’ll have a clean bill of health soon and I can produce my best again after I'm back.
“If you’re mentally fresh I think it goes a long way. It’s easier to do the work then and stay on top of everything because it takes a lot to play at this level.
“When that starts to dwindle it becomes hard and then obviously there are other factors in life, like family, work and all the other commitments. I’m blessed to have good support there so it allows me to be able to do it. As long as I can do it and as long as that mental state is there I’ll continue to do it. This year wasn’t one of the years I questioned it.”
Perhaps Geaney is keen to extract the maximum from his inter-county career because it took some time to really get going.
When he was a member of the panel in 2011, 2012, and 2013 he played just two matches over the totality of those three seasons, before he suddenly exploded onto the scene in 2014 when he scored 1-20 in Kerry’s All-Ireland winning campaign.
“The first couple of years were difficult because I hadn’t learnt how to train at that point, I hadn’t learnt how to conduct myself maybe off the field, how to treat my body around training,” he admits.
“I had a long way to go in those first couple of years to get into the squad. Then when I got into the squad I finally started putting the pieces together. Then Eamonn [Fitzmaurice] came in as well in 2013 and bar the injury setbacks in those early years I learnt 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 become a lot easier. Then it’s about staying on top of it. As I said, 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.
“Obviously I’ve a young family now and they provide plenty of entertainment for me when I get home and I’m very content in my personal life. That definitely helps as well to settle you down and give whatever I have left. Whatever I’ve left I’ll be giving it because I know when once you step away, that’s it and you have to move on. I’m not ready to do that yet.”
Last years All-Ireland Final win was a little bit extra-special for Geaney because he felt like he wasn’t just winning it for himself, but his family.
He got to share some precious moments on the pitch with his sons Paidi, five, and daughter Christina, 3 weeks, and winning a Celtic Cross felt like a reward for the sacrifices his wife Siún has made to help him fulfil his Gaelic football dreams.
“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,” he says.
“Whether the players win or lose, they are still getting value out of what they put in. Whether it is bonding, or some level of success throughout the year, or just the fact they have another community.
“Whereas when it is somebody's else 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.
“Maybe for them more so than you, it might feel like a waste of time. It was hugely rewarding that way."
Geaney had to wait eight years after his first All-Ireland before he won his second one, so he’s in a good place to warn his younger team-mates about the dangers of any complacency that just because they’ve won one now more will follow.
He doesn’t think he’ll need to deliver that message, though, because players like David Clifford and Sean O’Shea have found out the hard way that success doesn’t come easily in the senior grade.
“They’re definitely fully aware because they won all the way up in minor,” he says. “Any preconception of ‘the same is going to happen for us at senior’ was gone as obviously it didn’t happen for the team straight away.
“So they were well aware that was the case. When I came in for my first full championship year, it was a winning year in the championship and we got back to the final the following year.
“You think that’s going to be the case for all of your career but it’s not. They obviously would have seen that as well and David Moran would have spoken about it as well in years gone by about the difficulty of getting back to All-Ireland quarters, semis and finals.
“They’re well aware now and hopefully it does stand to them for their careers to see how difficult it is to get to the latter stages. If it stands in good stead to them hopefully we can be part of something special over the next while.”