O’Leary says himself and Kingdom star Galvin were the best of enemies
Former Cork defender says rivalry never descended into personal insults or sledging
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy and Shane Enright try to separate Paul Galvin and Cork’s Noel O’Leary during the Munster final of 2013 at Killarney. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Few footballers loved to hate each other throughout the 2000s like powerful half-back O’Leary and hard running Kerry half-forward Galvin who were consistently paired off in All-Ireland and Munster finals.
They were both dismissed for trading blows in a 2009 Munster championship tie and O’Leary acknowledged that it did get “hot and heavy” on a number of occasions.
The 2010 All-Ireland winner told ex-Kerry star Tomás Ó Sé in an interview for Benetti Menswear that he was also happy to have the opportunity to clarify that they never trash-talked or sledged each other, as some believed.
“One thing, while we’re on it, and it’s something I always wanted to put out there. Over the years I’ve heard an awful lot of things, false things really, this kind of sledging that goes on, I’ve heard numerous things from people that he said certain things to me during the games, personal things,” said O’Leary.
“I can categorically state, for both of us to be fair, it goes both ways, that he never opened his mouth to me and I was the same to him. I think it’s only fair that that’s put out there.
“I’d show huge respect to a guy that just puts it all out there and gets on with it. To be fair, the majority of yee [Kerry players] were the same. I won’t say all of yee, but the majority of yee were the same. But it’s totally different now. Sure what goes on now is unbelievable.
“But no, look, I know we had our tussles or whatever but I’d have huge respect for him as a footballer. Certainly a lot of what went on was blown out of proportion a small bit.”
Current Wexford manager Galvin made his name as a hard-running wing forward with the Kingdom throughout the 2000s, though first came to O’Leary’s attention while playing for UCC and there was an immediate tension.
“My first time crossing Paul was, I’d say, around 2001,” recalled O’Leary.
“He actually wasn’t on the Kerry panel at the time. We played UCC in a practice game and he was actually playing wing-back that time, Galvin. Jaysus, I can always remember, we didn’t tussle but . . . I don’t know what it was about him, I just felt that he wanted to, how would I say it . . . you could feel the tension during the game, I don’t know what it was. I said in my own mind anyway, ‘I have no doubt that if we meet down the road there’ll be some tango between the two of us’. And sure lo and behold that’s the way it panned out.”
As a nod to the softening of their relationship post-retirement, O’Leary joked that the pair could get into the fashion business together.
“I was half thinking of bringing out my own underpants range and I was thinking of getting him on board to collaborate with me,” smiled O’Leary. “I have the name and all made up. Who are that designer crowd, D&G? Well it’s L&G, Leary and Galvin. That’s the brand name.”
O’Leary is optimistic about the current Cork team who appear to be on the up again after a difficult few seasons.
“The big thing I see with them in the last year or two, there’s certainly a big culture shift there,” he said.
“I would say over the last five or six years, the culture was all wrong. It kind of starts from there really, you have to have a team that are buying into everything. I felt they were getting that a bit wrong at the time. Ronan [McCarthy] has definitely moved things on a bit. In relation to the calibre of players over the last few years, maybe Cork were caught a bit that way as well.”