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How Paul Geaney has overcome struggles to make his mark for Kerry

The Dingle club man has emerged as a key asset in the Kingdom forward line.

Paul Geaney has made his mark for Kerry in 2014.
Paul Geaney has made his mark for Kerry in 2014.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IN KERRY’S ATTACK, the spotlight is on the excellence of James O’Donoghue as he pursues the Footballer of the Year award and the rebirth of Kieran Donaghy as he seeks to evoke the past memories of great days.

The final member of that full-forward line is not under as intense focus. Yet the arrival of Paul Geaney on the inter-county senior scene has played an influential role on Kerry’s fortunes this year. He’s overcome a ruinous series of injuries to finally make his mark on the pitch.

Off the pitch, he’s endured tough times as well. He lost his mother Christina last March after battling cancer. She passed away nine days after her son had captained UCC to a famous Sigerson Cup win over a star-studded Jordanstown team in Belfast.

“Around that time, I was wondering how he was dealing with it all and trying to play football as well,” says Dave Geaney, a cousin of Paul and a member of the 2011 Kerry panel that reached the All-Ireland final.

“But the focus on the football has given him and the whole family a huge lift. It’s brilliant for his sisters and his father Paul Senior, to see Paul doing so well. That goes for the rest of the Geaney family as well.

“My brother Mikey is with the Kerry seniors as well and then we’ve another cousin Conor who’s been with the Kerry minor panel. It’s been a tough year for Paul but he’s just drove on. The Sigerson win was huge for building his confidence.”

Paul Geaney celebrates winning with the Sigerson Cup Paul Geaney after captaining UCC to the Sigerson Cup title Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

Eamonn Fitzmaurice was always aware of Geaney’s capabilities. He impressed at minor and U21 level but since his underage days ended in 2011, it’s taken until this year for him to forge a senior reputation.

“He had a very frustrating year last year,” recalls the Kerry boss. “I thought that last year he would have a good cut at it but he had back injuries and it just didn’t happen for him. Every time he got doing, he got injured.”

Geaney pulled a hamstring while in action for UCC in January 2013 and a couple of months later, it was discovered that a broken vertebrae was causing his problems. After an operation, he returned to the fray and made his senior championship debut against Cavan last August.

Damien Reilly and James McEnroe with Paul Geaney Paul Geaney making his debut for Kerry against Cavan last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He had been going very well and then got a back injury the morning of the Dublin game,” recalls Fitzmaurice. “He got a back spasm which ruled him out of the game. So he had a frustrating 2013. He worked on his conditioning over the winter time so when he came back, he was ready to have a right cut at it.”

This year he has seized his chance. First championship day out against Clare, he stepped up in O’Donoghue’s absence to lead the line and shoot 0-6 from play. Another three white flags were raised against Cork and four more against Galway.

Geaney dovetailed superbly with the Legion star but also showed his brilliant scoring instincts. The scoring rates may have dried up in the two-game saga against Mayo but he still popped up with a stunning late extra-time point.

“He’s had to be patient,” admits Dave. “In 2012 he was phenomenal for Dingle en route to the county final, he carried the show. I thought he’d get going in 2013 but then the injuries caught him. Ger Keane has done great rehab work with him and Paul has shown what he can do.”

Today is the day to prove that. The emergence of Geaney has been crucial in adding a second consistent scoring option to the Kerry attack along with O’Donoghue as they have overcome the absence of Colm Cooper.

“Paul has been very important,” agrees Fitzmaurice. “He’s done well. But the lads know that now, it’s about performing in an All-Ireland final.”

Get in the mood for today’s Kerry-Donegal showdowns with RTÉ’s brilliant promo

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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