Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Glad to be GAA – from Galvinised to The Club

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a GAA player in possession of some spare cash and looking for some decent casual clobber must be in want of a pair of bootleg jeans (usually from Jack & Jones). Someone obviously …

Thu, Jan 6, 2011, 09:42


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a GAA player in possession of some spare cash and looking for some decent casual clobber must be in want of a pair of bootleg jeans (usually from Jack & Jones). Someone obviously forgot to send that memo to Paul Galvin or else he just doesn’t read the Brontes because he thinks they’re dissing him.

Kerry football’s most illustrious skinny jeans advocate was the subject of Galvinised on the telly over Christmas. Those strides were just one of many firsts on a TV show about a Kerry GAA player. You never saw Eoin Liston dealing with tabloid reports linking him with a presenting gig on TV3′s Xpose, going on shopping trips to such High Street style emporiums as Top Shop and River Island, passing on The Sunday Game for The City on MTV or highstepping around Manhattan in search of Jay-Z’s club. The fact that Galvin only once said “yerra” on camera, though, was a significant first when it comes to Kerry football lads and their engagement with the media. You can build on things like that.

Galvinised tracked the player’s progress through 2010 and it was quickly apparent that the show’s producers were hoping he’d produce the form which made him Gaelic Player of the Year in 2009 or, better still, some of the antics which mean that he’s legally entitled to be called “the infamous Galvin” on some sports pages. We got very little of the former and a lash of the latter. Kerry didn’t have a great season and, when he wasn’t suspended, Galvin stropped around the pitch and occasionally conducted some indepth investigation of a Cork player’s dental work. By the end of the show, Galvin had left his steady job as a schoolteacher and was waiting to find out what came next. Meanwhile, the world kept turning.

Galvin wandering through the show like someone who just didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone. The problem, though, is that we still have no idea just why he doesn’t give a damn. Unlike Keane or Cantona, two obvious precedents for such outsider behaviour and a pair Galvin may well have studied, you never got the sense that there was anything more to what you saw showponying across the screen. There was no evidence to back up a demonic drive or a fierce hunger to compete and win.

Sure, he’s a dedicated follower of fashion and sure, he’s a fierce man for the skinny jeans, but, really, so what? Is that all it takes to be an outsider or a maverick or a bit of a header in the GAA these days? Why didn’t we hear a peep from any of Galvin’s county or club team-mates? Was their non-participation supposed to amplify the image the programme-makers wanted to convey of a lone wolf on the prowl, a tortured genius locked into his own world? All surface and no depth, Galvinised told us absolutely nothing that we didn’t already know about the subject before we turned on the telly.

By contrast, The Club probably says more about the trials, tribulations and occasional triumphs of a local GAA club than any TV show could ever capture. Certainly, you’d never get this level of intensity in an episode of Celebrity Bainisteoir and they’d also edit out all the good bits. I’m sure I was not the only one gripped by Christy O’Connor’s passionate, extraordinary and brutally honest account of what happened to St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield in 2009.

It’s a decade on from when the Co Clare club won the All-Ireland club hurling championship and a lot has changed on and off the pitch. Many of the old guard from that era are still hurling and still passionately believe that there’s one more hey-day in them, but the results show the club are no longer the kingpins they once were in the county. Meanwhile, two deaths in the parish impact hugely on the team and could either cast a shadow over the year or act as a means to inspire them into putting a decent run together. Then, there’s the various administrative wranglings over new management teams and attempts to put a coherent under-age policy together to ensure there’s a bright future for the club. There’s never a dull moment here.

The senior team’s veteran keeper (and a sports journalist by trade), O’Connor brings the reader right into the heart of the action. No punches are pulled as O’Connor covers those mundane issues which every GAA club in the country knows about – everything from players losing the head and going off on drinking sessions before big games to clandestine strategy pow-wows before AGMs and committee meetings – as well as the big-hearted dramas, great victories and heartbreaking losses on match-day. The fact that one of the deaths which dominates the narrative is that of O’Connor’s baby daughter, who lived for just five minutes after her birth, makes the whole story even more poignant.

Again and again, O’Connor writes about how getting involved with a club like Doora-Barefield can consume and take over your life. Be it as a player or one of the hurley-carriers on the sideline, the club is at the heart of the world from winter right through the long days of summer. What’s interesting is how someone like O’Connor, a man who has probably been involved with teams since he was a young lad, begins to get frustrated with others who lack his level of commitments. It’s telling too how a divide begins to emerge between the older and younger members of the senior panel, with many other players opting for football over hurling especially when a dual club like Doora-Barefield are on a winning streak in the big ball game. Then, there’s all the non-sporting hassles and stresses of living in modern Ireland – O’Connor is very good on the social changes around the club’s hinterland – which impact on how much time a person can devote to the club and also on how that club relates to the local community. A fantastic, must-read book – and a reminder that there’s more to the GAA than Kerry fellas in tight jeans.