Realities Of Being A Kerry Footballer Living In Dublin Are Tough

By PJ Browne

Two things Anna Galvin doesn't like to think about too deeply: The amount of time she spends in her car travelling between Dublin and Kerry, and how much it costs her.

The Kerry footballer lives in Dublin, and works as an occupational therapist at the Trinity Disability Service. A few times a week, she travels down to the Kingdom for training.

"Ignorance is bliss on that one!" she says when asked how much she's out of pocket.

"I was tracking it there for the last couple of weeks for something, but I actually just didn't add up the totals, but it's hundreds and hundreds. It's actually it's sick.

"It costs a holy fortune to live in Dublin, then it costs a holy fortune to travel up and down. It's so expensive. I've got very good at remembering where the best [fuel] prices are! It's so sad, but makes a difference.

"Coming towards the last week before you get paid again in the month is tough going. I literally would be like, 'Right, I really, really need to not spend a penny on anything because I need to be able to put €30 to top up my diesel to get down the road to training'. Luckily, when I do go home, my parents do feed me. At least when I'm travelling down, I get a couple of dinners out of it!

"Then, you're trying to feed yourself with the best possible nutrition, but the amount of time you're spending on the road, you don't have time to get food shopping and cooking done for yourself.

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"You get into a routine, a rhythm about it. You just can't dwell on it. If you start dwelling on it, you'd be second guessing what you're doing with your life!"

10 April 2022; Kerry captain Anna Galvin, behind, celebrates with teammate Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, 15, after their side's victory in the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 2 Final between Armagh and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

What keeps her making that trip is being part of a team on the rise. In April, Kerry defeated Armagh in the National League Division 2 final, a hurdle they'd fallen at in two of the previous three years.

At the weekend, in the curtain raiser to the men's Munster final in Killarney, Cork kept Kerry at arm's length to claim the Munster title. In reality, the provincial championships don't mean much, other than being good warm-ups for the real deal. That starts later this month when Kerry face Galway in Group C of the All-Ireland Senior Championship. Westmeath are the other team in the group.

It is a championship which feels wide open, and not just because of Meath's feats last year. In the Division 1 semi-final, Donegal defeated Dublin. Donegal were beaten in the Ulster final by Armagh, the side Kerry defeated in the Division 2 decider. Dublin manager Mick Bohan said last week that he feels there are "five or six teams who genuinely have a chance".

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Kerry are now in their third year under the management of Darragh Long and Declan Quill. It's also the third year of a strength and conditioning programme, run by Cassandra Buckley, which has the team feeling they can take the blows, and give them.

"Some of the younger girls never had any gym stuff [before three years ago]" says Galvin.

"You run into any one of us now, you'll be knocked back! Maybe before, we'd have been bullied off the ball or on the ball a little bit by some of the bigger senior teams, whereas now, we'll go toe-to-toe with them for strength, definitely, and fitness."

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One of the next big steps for Kerry would be a permanent training base. Last year was spent at the Kerry GAA Centre of Excellence, located midway between Tralee and Killarney near the village of Currans. Much to the annoyance of Galvin's teammate Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh - whose photo is on the front of the building - the Kingdom's female inter-county footballers have only trained there a handful of times this year.

28 May 2022; Ciara O'Sullivan of Cork in action against Anna Galvin of Kerry during the TG4 Munster Senior Ladies Football Championship Final match between Kerry and Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Kerry GAA chairman Patrick O'Sullivan told The Kerryman last week that the women's team have been "offered Currans up to twenty times over the last few weeks, and we’re working with them to improve the situation". O'Sullivan also said that due to weather conditions, there were issues with the availability of pitches earlier in the year.

"There's been a lot of people saying 'Currans is a GAA facility, and at the minute, the LGFA are not under the GAA’," says Galvin.

"That's all well and good, and I very much understand that, and there's work being done on Currans at the minute, so there's not a huge amount of teams getting in there at the moment. It is a more complicated situation than just that they're not letting us in there, obviously.

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"It's just frustrating when Louise is plastered on the wall and there's this tokenism of equality that is out there. That tokenism equality is probably what gets me most. We are pushing towards equality, and we're moving there, but sometimes the narrative overstates how much we're getting towards equality at the minute. I think sometimes people don't realise quite how slow that process is.

"It's completely fair for Louise to be frustrated. We're begging and borrowing for pitches left, right, and centre. There's been so much talk of the LGFA and camogie having a pitch in Currans. There's no development that has even come next or near to starting on that. That's not going to be in my lifetime as a footballer with Kerry anyway I'd say. It is a shame.

"We're very fortunate that Declan's club, Kerins O'Rahillys, have been able to give us their pitch a load. I really appreciate their support, and then MTU are giving us their facilities at the minute, but they also want to be resting their pitches at this time of year."

Galvin hopes that the proposed merger of the LGFA and Camogie Association with the GAA would ease issues like the one they've had at Currans, and also mean that players are properly recompensed for what it costs them to play inter-county football.

"There's a lot of time commitment going into training when you're within the county and when you've got to add in the consideration of travel [from outside the county] as well, that doubles it," she says.

"At least if it wasn't costing us a fortune to play, we might have a couple more girls who live around the country that might come back. I really do think we have the strongest panel we've had in a long time now.

"But then there's still like so many girls around the place that could be playing, and they're choosing - rightly so - to go to America and stuff like that because first of all, they want to get the experience going on a J1, but there's no major incentive to stay - they're not seeing huge strides within the LGFA.

"Why wouldn't they go away to America and experience all the craic and all the J1 experience over there when they don't get recognition for playing here?

"I'm not saying getting compensated for your expenses is necessarily the recognition that we're looking for, but it certainly would make life a lot easier."

Featured image credit: Sportsfile / Shutterstock.com

See Also: McConville Thinks Derry Can Cause Dublin And Kerry 'Huge Problems'

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