In the six years since kicking one of the clinching points in the All-Ireland final, Kevin Nolan had never lost sight of winning his way back into the Dublin team. Only now he has.
Realising the near impossibility of that happening, Nolan, still only 28, is about to relocate to Monaghan with his fiancé. That inevitably opens up new possibilities, and yes, someday he might well be playing against Dublin.
“I would still love to play intercounty football,” says Nolan, who will continue in his teaching job in Adamstown in west Dublin. “I wouldn’t go looking, but things might happen in the next months or years that may mean I’m playing football in a different county.
“There is a club Cremartin, they are literally across the road from the house we would be looking to renovate. I can’t be putting in a transfer to the other end of the county just to win a medal. I wouldn’t be all about the glory.
“All the stuff that happened up until now has been exceptional for me. At the minute I’m a club footballer. At the end of the day, when the club season is finished, every inter-county footballer is a club footballer. Down the line, if things happen, brilliant. If not, at the end of the day, I’m a GAA club player.”
Speaking back at his Dublin club, Kilmacud Crokes, at the launch of the Volkswagen All-Ireland Sevens – set for Saturday week – Nolan admits there are some regrets about the way things went after that 2011 All-Ireland win, in which he was also named man-of-the-match.
His last full game for Dublin was the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo, and although he stuck around for a couple more league campaigns, manager Jim Gavin told him, after the 2015 league, that was likely to be his last involvement.
Not helped by a back injury, while also continuing to treat his diabetes, as he has during most of his career, he lost a few crucial months at crucial times.
“I got back for the 2014 league, playing corner back and played against Derry in the final and the following game would have been the championship game against Laois and between me messing up, and even a few problems with the medication, I ended up having to drop out of a training session a week or 10 days before the first championship game so I lost out on the position.
“Since then it was hard to get back in and the end of that year I had to have an operation on my back, and was lying on my back for six weeks. I got back into the squad in January and trained for about four months and couldn’t get back fully fit to challenge and the squad was being cut and I hadn’t made that much of improvement in fitness and that’s when it was ended.”
Gavin asked that they meet in a Dublin hotel, as a matter of courtesy, to break the news, but still Nolan never completely gave up: “I felt I was probably going back as a footballer because I wasn’t playing as much football. There were times you weren’t playing with your club because you were with your county and so on. I have seen an improvement in fitness over the last couple of months and you have to keep adding on to that.
“I’m back with the club now, and I’ll try and do as best as I can with Kilmacud Crokes. We have a tough game in three-and-a-half weeks against Castleknock.
“I do miss it. It has given me a broader view of life. Up until second year in college, all I focused on was football and study. I didn’t know what a girl was. To view other things and life and do other bits it has been brilliant, but I’ve always said it I’d swap New York for a summer with a place on the squad again because it is that exciting. Not only trying to be a glory hunter, I experienced what it’s like to win but the camaraderie in the team and I love that.
“I also experienced the shift that occurred in the squad and the positivity and it was great to be a part of. I’d love to get a chance to play again. If I hadn’t have won one, yes I’d be mad to get back in and I probably would be envious, but I was able to achieve a lot and now I’m happy.”