Joyce's career an amalgam of style, substance and commitment
It was in the years after that, when Galway slipped back into the pack and Armagh and Tyrone engineered a football revolution, that Joyce’s real brilliance became apparent. On good days and bad days for Galway, he never failed to do something that was so brilliantly quick-witted and unexpected that it made everyone in the stadium kind of gasp.
I remember taking my son to a Connacht final when he was four. The whole kick for him was the press box because of the fact that it was an improvised lorry. Of the game, he said only: “The number 11 did everything.” Depressingly, he had summed up in five words what I intended taking a 1,000 to explain – there was no more scathing indictment of the futility of this job. Joyce was the No 11 that day.
I interviewed him just once, on the occasion of his captaincy of the Irish International Rules team. He was dead pleasant and just as moderate; like many GAA players, he has made a career out of saying very little in public because if he said what he actually thought about things, he would undoubtedly come across as too caustic and sharp.
On summer days of Galway disappointment, we watched him walk quickly out of dressing rooms in Roscommon or Salthill, bag thrown over his shoulder and head bowed and figured that that would be his exit from Galway football. But for 16 seasons, he showed up for more. He couldn’t not.
In recent seasons, he has become a totemic figure in Galway football. The frame thickened a little and the black hair was silver dusted at the temples but the mind and eye were as quick as ever and he manufactured space and scores from nothing. You could see what he meant to younger players from across the country when they shook hands after games.
Much has changed over Pádraic Joyce’s playing career.The country became loud, tipsy and grotesque and inevitably it all fell apart. Pat Comer’s film caught a moment of Irish life at a very delicate, complex period when everything and everyone was on the verge: things were about to take off.
Watching Joyce play football on a dewy spring day in Tuam or during the height of the championship was for Galway people a vivid connection to that 1998 season but more generally, his presence was a truly eloquent example of grace and commitment and poise and belief in something real – values that were badly in want in this country. He played his heart out for as long as he could.