Pressure and expectation par for the course for Geaney and Kerry
Massive effort expected in the Kingdom as Dublin’s drive for five concentrates minds
Paul Geaney: “The Kerry public and us as players don’t want to see the county’s record being beaten.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Pat Rafter was asked one time about the pressure and expectation of winning the final of Wimbledon in 2001, having lost the year before.
“I’ve just been voted the sexiest man alive,” he answered. “That’s pressure and expectation.”
Turns out Rafter lost that 2001 final as well.
There is pressure and expectation of a different sort on Paul Geaney.
At 28 he’s now one of the older Kerry forwards, expected to spin around the young bloods such as David Clifford and Seanie O’Shea. He’s in his ninth senior season with Kerry, only a little short of expectations with just a single All-Ireland, back in 2014.
And last December he also married his long term girlfriend Siún Ní Shé, daughter of Páidí Ó Sé, the late eight-time All-Ireland winner with Kerry. That’s pressure too you know.
There is also the maturity which Geaney now brings to the Kerry team effectively being rebuilt again under new manager Peter Keane – continuing with Saturday’s Munster final against Cork: Geaney was on the panel in 2012 when they last lost to Cork, in the Munster semi-final, before making his senior debut against Cavan the following year.
A year after that he won his first All-Ireland, but any expectation that more titles would soon follow certainly hasn’t been met. Kerry may be chasing a seventh successive Munster title in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening, but Geaney recently spoke about that experience, knowing full well that pressure and expectation always go hand-in-hand in Kerry.
“At the start I suppose you’re looking at it saying, ‘Kerry have won one every two years and I’m 20 and I’m going to play for 10 years so I’m going to win at least five All-Irelands...’ But it doesn’t work like that.
“And after 2014 you were probably looking at it saying, and Dublin were only after winning one or two at the time, ‘well we are here now to stay’. But we were beaten in 2015 and haven’t seen a final since so it’s tough.
“But you have to keep going to get back there. Expectation is there of course. But what are you expected to do? I know the All-Ireland is the thing and the players want to win the All-Ireland but I think you succumb to that expectation when you stop doing everything to be successful. But if you are doing everything you can, you can sleep at night, win or lose.
“Obviously it’s a lot harder when you lose, and it’s almost like a death in the family. You grieve for months after, especially if it’s an All-Ireland final, but you tick all the boxes and do everything in your power to achieve the success that is expected. And when you don’t you have to live with it I suppose.”
What is certain, Geaney suggested, is that any pressure and expectation on Dublin to win that record fifth successive All-Ireland is for them to worry about, and not Kerry.
“There’s no added pressure. The consequences of them winning the All-Ireland this year is that we don’t. Simple as. I know the Kerry public and us as players don’t want to see the county’s record being beaten, but we’re not going to try harder because of that. We’re going to give it everything because we want to win the All-Ireland.”
Geaney ended up missing several rounds of the league after sustaining the most unlikely of knee injuries in the immediate aftermath of Kerry’s league win over All-Ireland champions Dublin, back in February.
He felt a definite snap in his knee after two players, one a team-mate and the other from Dublin, collapsed onto him during the gently aggressive pushing and shoving that began shortly after the final whistle: Kerry won by a point.
“Right after the Dublin game I got an injury, just going off the field there, a body or two fell on me. I did a small ligament [damage] there on my knee, there was a bit of cartilage as well so I just got a tidy up on that. It was certainly the strangest injury I’ve picked up on a field, having not been in competition.”
He played 10 minutes in the league final loss to Mayo, and there is the sense that Kerry’s forward machine has yet to hit top gear. Saturday evening may present the chance.
“It is very exciting when you are looking at the talent that is there. Like, James O’Donoghue and myself around, and probably looking at David [Clifford], All Star last year and Seanie O’Shea, probably player of the year in the league.
“There is no shortage of talent but it’s about getting it right on the day and getting it right consistently, which is where I think we kind of fell down last year.”
No pressure or expectation so.