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Shouting for Meath to enemies now, lofty All-Ireland aims and 2012 final memories

Anna Galvin: ‘There’s no point setting out at the start of the year without aiming for the pinnacle, the ultimate prize.’

Anna Galvin captains Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland senior ladies football final against Meath.
Anna Galvin captains Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland senior ladies football final against Meath.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

ANNA GALVIN WAS one of very few involved when Kerry last featured in the All-Ireland senior final in 2012.

There’s six from the panel preparing for Sunday’s decider against Meath: Galvin, who is now the captain, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, Lorraine Scanlon, Cáit Lynch, Emma Costello (née Sherwood) and Louise Galvin.

“Landing into Croke Park, 17-years-old, I was blown away,” she recalls; Cork ran out 16 point winners that day amidst their reign of terror — 11 titles in 12 years. “That was my first season in. I never had a chance in hell of coming on in that game.

“Maybe I didn’t realise how unique or amazing it was. I remember so little of the game, but I do remember I went down to warm up and I don’t think I’ve ever been warmed up so fast! I was like a little Duracell Bunny on the sideline, I was just so buzzing.

“It was overwhelming and amazing to be coming into Croke Park. We were so unused to it and it was such a new experience for so many of the team. It was rare that the Kerry Ladies got into Croke Park back then and that definitely had an impact on the game that day. Cork were so well-versed in playing here at that stage and that probably was a huge strength for them.

“As well then I’d remember the disappointment afterwards. I feel like because I was so young, I was obviously gutted that we didn’t get over the line, but more so gutted for my team-mates because they were the ones that had really gotten us there and been fighting to get to that position for so long. Hopefully now that team and their determination and dedication… like, the team didn’t fall away after that, it really, really stuck at it for so many years after that. They kept fighting and coming back year-on-year, and that determination was just something to behold and has probably been a huge driver for me as well over the years. I learned from them and learned to keep my head down and work hard and it can pay off.

“I’m really, really proud to be involved in a team that has got us back here eventually, hopefully… it would be really lovely to lift the Brendan Martin for those girls.”

Galvin has come a long way from that Duracell Bunny on the sideline, that “little weakling” who couldn’t even bench the bar for a one-rep max as a gym newbie.

Still as lively and electric in action, as a tireless and dogged half-forward, she is Kerry’s talismanic leader now, fighting the good fight on and off the pitch.

The Good, the bad and the ugly, she’s seen it all over the last 10 years or so; embracing change, evolving as a player and a person, and enjoying the upward trajectory ladies football is on.

The latter hasn’t always been the case, particularly not in the Kingdom.

The turbulent times, which all came to a head in 2018, are well-documented at this stage: chopping and changing with managers, league relegation in 2018 after fielding an ineligible player and a winless campaign, county board issues and other off-field drama.

anna-galvin-with-marian-mcguinness Facing Armagh in 2017. Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

The lows often outweighed the highs, Galvin’s phenomenal commitment understandably wavering slightly at points. (She lives in Dublin, where she works as an occupational therapist, subsequently clocking up ridiculous miles every week, with nothing in return.)

“It is tough and you have to take stock every winter and see what you can manage and where you are going. I had always wanted to travel at some stage, I went to Australia for a year probably at a time when we were having management issues with a few changes in quick succession. 

“I’d have been to the fore in the leadership of it and was drained form it and found it really difficult to mange so I took a break to give yourself the chance to recover mentally as well.”

And physically on a separate occasion, when injury meant she missed another season.

There have been no shortage of barriers along the way, but Galvin and co. have broken through them, the ship well and truly steadied by Declan Quill, Darragh Long and their management team with full focus on football.

Galvin clearly remembers watching last year’s All-Ireland final, the one where Meath stunned Dublin and ended their dream of the perfect five in-a-row.

In their first season back in the senior ranks, in their debut final appearance, the Royals lifted their maiden crown and their remarkable rise hit stratospheric heights.

“It was class. Meath now are our biggest enemies at the moment but last year we were roaring and shouting at the TV to go! The game looked like it was sewn up but they were unbelievable. So tuned in. Got themselves over the line. It was class, such an exciting finish. They were deserving winners on the day.

“For the last number of years it has been Cork and Dublin at the top of the pile all of the time. There might have been a change coming, but Meath sped it up.

“They were a huge catalyst with that win last year. It definitely gave belief to other teams that you don’t need to fear those bigger teams, that anyone can take the prize on the day. It’s been really good for ladies football as well, added a bit of excitement.”

For the first time since 2002, neither Cork or Dublin are in the final, the counties having shared every single title from 2005 up to Meath’s monumental victory.

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tg4-all-ireland-ladies-football-finals-captains-day Galvin and Meath captain Shauna Ennis at the All-Ireland finals launch. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Kerry have certainly not shied away from the fact that they thought they could reach the biggest stage earlier this year, although those strong beliefs were kept under wraps until recently.

Galvin enthuses: “I would have very early on said we were aiming for an All-Ireland final, to be on the steps of the Hogan come All-Ireland final day. And it would have something we would have put down on paper ourselves, that it’s what we would have been aiming for. Then, once that was laid out, we very much reigned it back in and looked at it step-by-step then.

“There’s no point setting out at the start of the year without aiming for the pinnacle, the ultimate prize.”

Having previously lost back-to-back to Division 2 finals before finally clearing the hurdle in April, and featuring in a senior relegation playoff as recently as 12 months ago, it’s fair to say that was a big ambition?

“Maybe a bit of naivety,” Galvin concedes. “A bit of cockiness as well, but when you are trying to build a team you have to have belief. You’re one of the senior players on the team and you don’t believe you can be in an All-Ireland final, what hope have you of buy-in from the younger girls and everybody else on the team?

“And if the players don’t have buy-in, how are you going to expect the management to have the same level of buy-in? You have to be aiming for the best, have that belief in yourselves. And we’ve always had that, always felt we could get to an All-Ireland final.”

The differences this year? Composure is the main one. Working on performing at big hurdles they fell short at before, another. And of course, ruthlessness in forwards: ‘Practice, practice, practice’.

Now the big question is can Galvin and co. end the wait for a first crown since 1993?

Only time will tell.

BTL 5

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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