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Kerry X adidas: A forbidden love affair that changed the face of the GAA




by Adam Moynihan


Back in the 1970s, adidas attempted to break into Gaelic games. They were shot down at every turn by the GAA, who had (and still have) strict laws that prevented teams from wearing non-Irish brands.

Despite opposition from Croke Park, the German sportswear giants found a willing partner in crime in Kerry boss Mick O’Dwyer, and together they forged a groundbreaking deal.

The arrangement would spark over 20 years of controversy.


Chapter 1: For free?

In 1972, Michael O’Connell came to Kerry with a bootload of three-stripe boots and a dream. The Corkman had beaten off competition from O’Neills to secure the Irish distributing licence for adidas and, even though the GAA had strict laws against foreign playing gear, he was hell-bent on breaking into Gaelic games.

The footwear would not prove to be a problem. Croke Park had already been turning a blind eye when it came to boots, and some county players had been wearing non-Irish brands for years. In fact, when he got his first shipment of adidas boots into Ireland, O’Connell’s very first customer was Kerry’s star player and one of the greatest Gaelic footballers of all time: his namesake, Mick O’Connell.

With that first sale very much in mind, O’Connell (of adidas) teed up a meeting with Kerry GAA and when he arrived in The Kingdom he outlined his plan to county board officials. He wanted to supply adidas boots - free of charge - to the Kerry footballers. The proposal left his audience slightly bemused.

“They couldn’t believe it,” O’Connell says. “I was the first person to come down and offer them products for nothing. They had to pay for O’Neills. The players had to buy their own boots. And I was giving them boots for free? They were wondering what was going on. The county board were looking at me like, ‘what is this fella’s motive?’

“I said, ‘look, you have superstars in your team who are known throughout the country. When these guys are wearing adidas, it helps our business. I want you in adidas’.”

The county board quickly got over their initial bout of scepticism and agreed to O’Connell’s deal. The Kerry/adidas partnership was born.

The Kerry footballers (among them future Kerry manager Mick O’Dwyer) received free adidas boots and they wore them in that year’s All-Ireland final, which they lost to Offaly after a replay. The year may have ended in disappointment, but the footwear was a hit amongst the players.


Kerry great Mick O'Connell wearing adidas boots.


“Blackthorn was the most popular GAA boot at the time and I distinctly remember the difference,” Kerry’s goalkeeper in ’72, Eamonn Fitzgerald, says. “The adidas boot fitted like a slipper and was far more flexible and much lighter. You could never go back.

“Up to then, adidas was for cross-channel soccer players; that was the official party line by the GAA. We got the boots, but there was no publicity about it.”

Buoyed by the success of the Kerry boot deal, O’Connell and adidas (operating in Ireland as ‘Three Stripe International Ltd’) set their sights on jerseys. In stark contrast to the footwear, this would, in O’Connell’s words, be a “huge problem” as far as the GAA were concerned.

The rule about foreign-made gear would make it difficult for Three Stripe to find an entry point into the Gaelic games apparel market, which was dominated by O’Neills. With this in mind, O’Connell set up a partnership with clothing manufacturers McCarter’s, who were based in Buncrana, County Donegal. This meant that all of the adidas gear being distributed by Three Stripe was made in Ireland by an Irish company providing Irish jobs. Problem solved? Not quite.


adidas' first attempt at kitting out an intercounty team was so infamous it even earned the dubious honour of being referred to as an affair. It started in 1976 when O’Connell approached the Cork footballers about wearing adidas jerseys in their Munster final replay against Kerry.

If they agreed, they would be joining a prestigious club. adidas had staked its claim as the world’s premier supplier of soccer jerseys just two years earlier when 10 of the 16 teams at the 1974 World Cup wore their kits, including both finalists (Germany and the Netherlands).

The Cork players decided to try it out, though they opted to black out the adidas trefoil logo (from the Latin ‘trifolium’, meaning ‘three-leaved plant’) as the move was not sanctioned by the county board. With a round collar, adidas’ three stripes on the sleeves, and an undersized number on the back, the new shirts certainly caught the eye. It was not dissimilar to the adidas jersey worn by the reigning European champions, Bayern Munich.

An investigation by the county board followed but no action was taken. The players were simply warned not to do it again.

A year later, in 1977, O’Connell asked the Cork players to do it again. The team agreed to wear adidas tracksuits, shorts and socks, but not the jerseys. All O’Connell wanted in return was a promotional photograph of the team kitted out in the three-stripe gear. The agreement and its fallout became known as The Three Stripe Affair.

“It was a crazy situation,” O’Connell recalls. “When Frank Murphy (Cork GAA secretary) saw Cork coming out in adidas clothing for the Munster semi-final against Clare, he erupted. For the final against Kerry, he warned the players not to go out in adidas shorts even, and the players at that stage had to buy their own shorts.

“The pressure was too much for the jerseys so I said to the players, ‘let’s avoid the controversy. But if ye want to wear the shorts, here they are’.”

After lengthy deliberations, the Cork players were leaning towards shelving the controversial adidas gear when a member of the backroom team made an ill-judged intervention. At a team kickaround the day before the final, Billy Morgan proposed that the squad stand down and wear the board-approved, non-adidas shorts as requested. Jimmy Barry Murphy, the team captain, agreed. At that point, a selector interrupted the meeting.

“This was a selector,” Morgan later told the Sunday Tribune, “who never came to training. He said we were a crowd of creepers, players who crept around looking for free gear. I had a bandage in my hand and I threw it at him.”

The selector had made his mark, but not in the manner he had hoped.

Cork came out for the final wearing adidas shorts and were subsequently well beaten by their near neighbours. The following week, the Cork county board suspended the entire squad for six months.

The story made headlines at home and abroad and although the suspension had little material effect (the ban only applied to county football and the season had ended, so the suspended players did not miss any games), the episode left a sour taste.

Years later, Morgan said he learned a valuable lesson that day. “Teams should fight their battles on the pitch, nowhere else. While we were fighting about jerseys, Kerry were thinking about how they would beat us.”

O’Connell points out that there is something quite ironic about that fateful day in July 1977. The Cork players were suspended for wearing adidas shorts, but their opponents, Kerry, were dressed head-to-toe in unbranded adidas socks, shorts and jerseys.

The former chief of adidas’ Irish operation says that 1977 was the first year Kerry took to the field in adidas teamwear, a fact which might surprise some Kerry fans who could be forgiven for assuming that the high-profile jerseys of the early eighties were the first adidas shirts worn by the team. As all jerseys and shorts were generally unbranded at the time, save for the Guaranteed Irish logo which sometimes appeared on the chest, it would have been extremely difficult to identify kit suppliers without checking the label.

So, if both sets of players were wearing adidas, how was it that only the team in red got in trouble?

O’Connell laughs. “Kerry GAA didn’t have a secretary like Frank Murphy!” It was Cork GAA who handed down the ban, not Croke Park. Although it wasn’t spoken about publicly, Kerry officials were fine with the team wearing adidas gear, so long as the players were being looked after.

Three Stripe were having no difficulty getting into Irish soccer, rugby, basketball or athletics but with county boards hesitant to break with tradition and deal with adidas, establishing a place in Gaelic games alongside O’Neills was proving to be a challenge.

At the beginning of the eighties, the German company’s Irish wing was dealt another significant blow. adidas brought O’Neills to court for allegedly passing off their goods as adidas products by using adidas’ famous three-stripe branding. Over the course of a two-year saga, which started in the High Court and ended in the Supreme Court, it was revealed that adidas had been using three stripes since 1952, while O’Neills had been using them since 1965.

O’Neills’ Managing Director Paul O’Neill stated that his company had decided to use three stripes “because it was fashionable and looked very well on a garment”.

The fact that O’Neills had been overlooked for the adidas contract back in 1970 was also discussed, with the MD admitting that he felt his company were treated badly by adidas at the time.

Despite a number of sportspeople testifying that they couldn’t tell the difference between O’Neills and adidas clothing, the three judges on the case eventually ruled 2-1 in O’Neills’ favour. The outcome meant that O’Neills could carry on displaying three stripes on their jerseys, which they did throughout the eighties. After largely shelving them for much of the nineties and early 2000s, the company brought the stripes back in a major way around the mid-2000s.

Nowadays, the three stripes are a constant fixture on all of the brand’s intercounty jerseys in the Republic of Ireland. O’Neills jerseys sold in Northern Ireland and everywhere else in the world have two stripes as the 1982 ruling is only valid in the Republic.

Meanwhile, as the battle between adidas and O’Neills was rumbling on in Dublin’s courts, a businessman from Waterville was fighting tooth and nail for the German brand in the GAA arena. And all it took was the promise of a nice sun holiday.


Chapter 2: A good deal

As a trainer, Mick O’Dwyer was cruel. When preparations for the championship began around March, O’Dwyer would subject his charges to punishing training sessions that would physically push them to the absolute limit of what they could handle. His preferred style of play, a running game which incorporated a lot of interplay and quick handpassing, demanded extremely high levels of fitness. Players, especially the ones who “enjoyed” their off-seasons, found the regime torturous.

But O’Dwyer also appreciated the effort his amateur players were putting in and the sacrifices they were making. He worked them to the bone when it was time to work, but he also wanted to reward them when the work was done.

Before long, the perfect opportunity to do just that would present itself.

By 1977, Kerry’s boot deal with adidas had developed into clothing and playing gear but, despite the fact that the apparel was being manufactured in Buncrana, the GAA were still resistant to the idea.

“Croke Park were putting unbelievable pressure on the Kerry county board [to stop wearing adidas],” O’Connell recalls, “so I upped the ante.”

adidas pledged to make a significant contribution towards an end-of-season “world tour” to thank the players for their dedication. O’Dwyer saw the proposed vacation as both a “carrot” (after giving his players plenty of the “stick”) and a sign of appreciation for his hard-working panel. At a time when international travel was a real luxury, the end of year trip proved immensely popular with the players.

The plan, O’Connell says, “worked like a charm”. Kerry’s ties to adidas were reinforced and O’Dwyer’s team would wear unbranded adidas jerseys on the pitch, and branded tracksuits and leisurewear off it, throughout what would later become known as Kerry’s Golden Years.

Speaking in the critically-acclaimed ‘Micko’ documentary in 2018, O’Dwyer outlined his thought process at the time. “Any sponsorship that was coming in had to go through Croke Park. We made a decision that it was about time for the players to get a little bit out of it.”

“It was Micko who really set it up,” says Seán Kelly, the former Kerry GAA chairman (1987-1997) and vice-chairman (1982-1987). “He talked about it and got the county board to agree with it. He saw that there was an opportunity there and he would have felt that maybe the Kerry team’s brand wasn’t used enough, and not enough came back to the county board and the players themselves.

“Being a businessman himself, he saw an opportunity to give the players some rewards for all their efforts.”

O’Dwyer and the players were rarely seen out of adidas apparel, particularly at press nights where the gear was very much on show. The squad also wore specially commission adidas-branded jerseys for official team photos, which was part of the agreement with Three Stripe International.


Kerry in adidas gear for an official team photo in 1980.


If you look a little closer at some of these promotional posters you might also spot some adidas Gaelic footballs. O’Connell says his company tried to produce an official match ball called the ‘adidas Peil na hÉireann’ for the GAA market, even going so far as to establish a football-making factory in West Kerry. Again, he found Croke Park unreceptive to the idea.

On matchdays, Kerry warmed up in adidas tracksuits, which substitutes also wore on the bench. However, the adidas logo was frequently covered quite conspicuously with white tape, a measure which might actually have attracted more attention than it diverted. On at least one occasion, adidas labels were cut from the inside of jerseys to throw GAA officials off the scent.


The adidas deal was certainly popular within the Kerry camp, and O’Dwyer’s team were achieving incredible success on the pitch, but O’Connell recalls “constant” issues with the GAA during this period.

Some observers speculated that Croke Park feared the adidas/Kerry deal as it had the potential to edge the sport away from its amateur ethos and into the realm of professionalism. Whether it was their intention to stamp out commercial sponsorship in its infancy, or whether they simply felt they were enforcing the rules of the Association, the friction with adidas persisted.

O’Connell tells a story which perhaps sums up how O’Dwyer felt about Croke Park’s interventions.

On the eve of the 1980 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Roscommon, GAA officials arrived at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, Kerry’s regular pre-match base. In their possession they had a bag of green and gold O’Neills jerseys as well as shorts and tracksuits. They were determined to prevent Kerry from wearing adidas in Croke Park the following day.

Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Liam Mulvihill and Uachtarán Paddy McFlynn pleaded with Kerry to “do the right thing” and wear the Irish product.

“Look, we’ll put them in there to the cupboard and we’ll go away and we’ll have a meeting,” O’Dwyer assured the GAA contingent. “We’ll make a decision and we’ll let you know.”

The Kerry manager placed the gear inside the cupboard and locked it shut. When Mulvihill and McFlynn left, O’Dwyer walked to the window, opened it up, flung the keys out into the Dublin sky, and turned to face his colleagues.

“Are we going down now looking for the keys, or are we going to talk about tomorrow?”

The following day, Kerry wore their adidas gear as planned as they secured their third All-Ireland in a row, and their fourth since O’Dwyer had taken over in 1975. Whatever Kerry, O’Dwyer and adidas were doing, it was working.


Former Kerry manager Mick O'Dwyer. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.



While O’Neills were clearly adidas’ main rivals when it came to the GAA, there was no denying who the real enemy was. In the 1920s, two brothers called Adolf and Rudolf Dassler started a slippers and sports shoes manufacturing company called ‘Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik’. Things started well but the pair fell out after World War II and in 1948 Rudi left and opened his own company called ‘Puma’. Adolf (or ‘Adi’ for short) renamed his company ‘adidas’, a combination of his first and last names.

Puma and adidas were in direct competition with one another so conflict naturally followed. Perhaps the most famous sucker-punch in the pair’s long and ill-tempered sparring match came at the 1970 World Cup, and the blow was dealt by Puma. The warring brands had agreed to an unusual truce in the sixties: neither of them would try to sign the world’s best soccer player, Pelé. The thinking was that the astronomical fee they would have to pay the Brazilian would inflate the cost of similar deals with other players in the future.

The so-called ‘Pelé Pact’ worked, until it didn’t. Puma secretly agreed a deal with Pelé during the World Cup in Mexico and they devised the perfect scheme to announce it to the world. Just before kick-off in Brazil’s quarter-final match-up against Peru in Guadalajara, Pelé stooped down to tie his laces. The match couldn’t exactly start without the man everyone was there to see, so the referee waited for him to finish. The television cameras zoomed in on Brazil’s number 10 and, lo and behold, he was lacing up a pair of Puma boots.

It was a marketing masterstroke by Puma and one that, no doubt, left adidas reeling.

Fast forward 11 years and Puma and adidas were at odds once again, only this time they were fighting over a young man from Tralee. In 1981, Kerry’s scorer-in-chief, Mikey Sheehy, was a Puma man, but the Kerry players were supposed to be wearing adidas. Speaking to John Fogarty of the Irish Examiner last year, Sheehy explained what happened next.

“Micko had done a deal with adidas and I had a deal done with Puma because I was the free-taker, no other reason. Whoever was taking the frees would have got it because they’d be seen in clips and running up to the ball. They were giving me stuff and looking after me fairly well in those times.

“In fairness to Micko, he said to me, ‘I don’t care what you wear. The important thing is the team and you don’t need to do anything. Keep wearing what you’re wearing but give them to me. I’ll do a job on them.’ So he de-stitched the Puma strip on the side and painted on the three stripes.

“Micko being the boss, I would have done whatever he wanted but it showed how much of a player’s man he was. The team was being well looked after by adidas anyway so I didn’t care but Micko took it upon himself to keep me happy and doctor them. He could have railroaded me but he didn’t and nobody knew anything about it only himself and myself.”

Sheehy got to wear his Puma boots, but the outside world thought he was wearing adidas. A win for Adi. Pelé 1-1 Mick O’Dwyer.

Somehow adidas either spotted or got wind of Sheehy’s altered footwear and requested that he wear proper adidas boots for the rest of the championship. The Austin Stacks man didn’t mind.

“I changed to adidas for the All-Ireland semi-final and final. I can’t recall if I went back to Puma but I wore Adidas a lot of the time after that.

“When we went on the World Tour in October ‘81, I don’t know whether it was in Sydney or Melbourne we were on such a tailspin, it had been arranged for me to visit Puma's factory and they gave me all the gear I wanted. But boots weren’t a big thing for me. If a gun was put to my head I probably preferred adidas. They just felt more comfortable.”



Kerry could often go several championships in a row without requiring a change strip but in the early eighties, several colour clashes meant they needed a number of alternate jerseys. After wearing two different blue change strips against Offaly in 1980 and Mayo in 1981, adidas used the ‘81 final to try something new. Kerry were gunning for a record-equalling four-in-a-row and with Offaly changing to all white, the holders took to the field in green and gold, but in an unorthodox arrangement. The new shirt was yellow from the chest up with yellow sleeves, a green collar and a green lower half.

As the team posed for their traditional pre-match photograph, some players turned around and gestured towards the dugout at the far side of the pitch. They were calling for their stricken comrade, the injured Pat Spillane, to join them for the picture. His fellow substitutes and members of the management team joined in, at one point practically attempting to drag the Templenoe man off the bench, but he refused to budge. It was a bizarre turn of events and the eyes of everybody inside Croke Park, as well as half the country watching at home, were firmly fixed on the Kerry dugout. Legendary commentator Micheál Ó Hehir provided a running commentary.

Eventually, after much cajoling, Spillane emerged from the dugout and ran out across the pitch to great fanfare. With the TV camera tracking him closely, he jogged across to the opposite sideline. As he made his way over, he fiddled with the zip on his bright green hoodie, which had a large adidas trefoil logo on full display on the chest (no tape). The nation was watching and they couldn’t but notice the Kerryman’s adidas clothing. Michael O’Connell couldn’t have planned it any better if he tried.

The '81 jersey was an unusual design, but it was also a winning one. Kerry defeated Offaly and captain Jimmy Deenihan lifted the Sam Maguire trophy in possibly the yellowest Kerry outfield shirt ever produced.

Offaly kept coming back for more and another meeting, this time in the 1982 All-Ireland final, necessitated yet another away jersey. Kerry were now going for an unprecedented five-in-a-row and adidas had grand ideas for the momentous occasion. A mint-green shirt with thin, gold pinstripes was commissioned but, on the Friday before the final, Croke Park stepped in again. The new design, they said, did not conform with the official alternate colours registered by the county board. The flashy adidas shirts could not be worn.

With just 48 hours to go before the biggest game of their lives, the champions had no jerseys.

Three Stripe International called McCarter’s up in Donegal with simple instructions. “We need a set of green jerseys with gold trim and we need them to be in Dublin by tomorrow night.”

It was All-Ireland final weekend and the Kerry team had to set off from Killarney train station jersey-less, and without knowing what the new jerseys would even look like. In a county known for its footballing piseógs, it could hardly be seen as a good omen. And with all the hype surrounding the five-in-a-row, another distraction was the last thing they needed.

To their credit, McCarter’s duly delivered and the new shirts arrived at the Grand Hotel on the eve of the decider. But, as Michael Foley details in his outstanding account of the ’82 final ‘Kings of September’, more drama was to follow in Croke Park on the Sunday.

“The new jerseys were missing,” Foley writes. “[County secretary Gerald] Whyte swept the dressing rooms. Nothing. He remembered bringing them out to the bus. Now, they were gone. He struggled back out to the bus and searched the baggage hold. He looked in the overhead racks and around the seats. Nothing. Then, at the very back, piled up in a tatty cardboard box, he found them. He sighed, lifted them up and headed back inside.

"As the jerseys were given out, the players looked at them but didn’t pause to consider their sartorial merit. It was just as well. They were green. Lime green. The yellow collars and cuffs didn’t distract from the horror of the jersey that was being foisted on them for the biggest day of their lives.

“‘They were hideous,’ says Tom Spillane. ‘They weren’t even a proper green. There were issues with that jersey. It didn’t affect us, but our preparations were blighted.’ But in the end Tom didn’t care. None of them did. Kerry had been chopping and changing jerseys for a few years against Offaly.

“‘The jerseys could be purple with pink spots,’ said Mikey Sheehy. ‘Whatever the people might say at home, Kerry jerseys wouldn’t win a game against this crowd.’”

In spite of all the hassle, and the questionable shade of green, the ’82 jersey was just seconds away from becoming the most famous Kerry jersey of all time. Instead, Séamus Darby broke Kerry hearts with a last-gasp, match-winning goal, and the shirt’s sentimental value plummeted.

"Jerseys were left dripping on the benches for whoever wanted them," Foley noted. Mikey Sheehy gave his to a girl from Armagh who had asked for his All-Ireland final jersey after the semi-final. He thought twice about promising it to her – he knew it would mean a lot to him if Kerry won – but, in the end, he didn’t have to think twice about handing it over. The last-minute lime green shirt would forever be associated with Kerry’s worst ever defeat.

In March of 1983, Kerry were fined for wearing adidas jerseys throughout the 1982 campaign. The reason given by the GAA management committee was not that the jerseys were foreign-made (for they were made in Donegal), but that the adidas shirts fell under the category of “playing gear for promotional purposes” as they were not “generally available to retail outlets in Ireland”.

It was also pointed out that this was not the first occasion that Kerry had ignored this particular directive, and that “no apology for their actions” was received. O’Dwyer, for his part, was unperturbed by the punishment.

“The Association came down on us,” he said in ‘Micko’. “We were fined £500 for wearing the adidas gear, but we had got £20,000. So, it was a good deal.”


Chapter 3: The Rise and Fall

After the disappointment of 1982 and a hangover year in 1983, Kerry returned with a bang in 1984. A comprehensive victory over old foes Dublin kickstarted another remarkable run as O’Dwyer led his rejuvenated team to victory again in 1985 and 1986. This brought their tally to eight titles in 12 years, a feat which undoubtedly singled them out as the greatest Gaelic football team of all time. adidas shirts were worn for seven of those eight victories.

Ambrose O’Donovan was captain in 1984 and he says the jersey Kerry wore in the GAA's centenary year was a personal favourite, and not just for the obvious emotional reasons.

“I thought the quality of the jersey for the ’84 final was excellent. It was light and it was easy on the skin. It was a beautiful jersey. The fact that it was the centenary final made it special for all of us. I’d say every one of us kept that one – I don’t think anyone gave away their jersey that year.

"We had two sets of adidas jerseys: one was a heavy cloth and the other was a light, nylon synthetic. The light one was ideal for warm weather, and that was a big thing for us. Their football boots were very high quality as well. It was predominantly the World Cups that were worn. They were a fantastic boot. I think we all wore them.

"It was a win-win situation because their gear was good and they had no problem donating to the team training fund as well. They put their money where their mouth was and made life very easy for us. We didn’t have to go to the public for fundraising or anything like that; adidas were able to look after it. If you needed a new pair of boots or a bag or a top or anything sportswear related, you didn’t have to worry about it. adidas supplied everything that was required, free of charge. That was brilliant for us at the time because it was an extra cost that we didn’t have to worry about.

"Certainly none of us could say a bad word about adidas. They supported us in every way they could."


Ambrose O'Donovan about to receive the Sam Maguire trophy in 1984. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.


That ’84 shirt was also notable as it was the first to feature a Kerry GAA crest.

The following year, Páidí Ó Sé was captain and he didn’t give away his adidas jersey from that final either – at least not right away. But when Dolly Parton showed up at his pub in Ventry in 1990, Páidí felt moved to present the world-famous country singer with a memento.

“I was thinking what would be the best present to give you,” Ó Sé said on stage before a large crowd. “The last big night we had here was in 1985 when I captained the Kerry team and we won the All-Ireland. And this is my jersey.”

Ó Sé handed the green and gold adidas shirt over to his guest.

“And it hasn’t been washed since.”


1985 was also the year of the notorious Bendix washing machine advert. On the morning of the All-Ireland final, two Sunday papers ran large advertisements showing the Kerry squad standing around a washing machine, half-clothed, with the tagline: ‘Only Bendix could whitewash this lot’.

The ad caused quite a furore but for O’Dwyer and Kerry, it was another lucrative deal.

“We got something in the region of £15,000,” O’Dwyer later said. “Croke Park were going on over that as well, but I didn’t give a damn.”

In the late eighties, more money started to roll in as Kerry signed a sponsorship deal with local food company Kerry Group. The arrangement was worth £45,000 over three years.

The Kerry/adidas connection was again placed under the microscope in 1989 when Liam Mulvihill came across a magazine advertisement that showed a model wearing a Kerry jersey, replete with the new Kerry crest as well as the branding of adidas and Kerry Group. This was over two years before sponsors’ logos were first allowed to be displayed on GAA jerseys, and Croke Park indicated that it appeared to be in breach of GAA guidelines.

Kerry GAA defended the arrangements with adidas and Kerry Group, with Kelly, who was by now the county chairman, stating at the time that the board had “right on their side”.

“They are ordinary sponsorship deals that are beneficial to the organisation. There is no question of anyone trying to pulling a fast one.”

The county board were receiving 5-10% of the jersey sales.

“Kerry were so strong, we were able to sell a pile of replica shirts,” O’Connell says. “But we had to be very careful promoting it because of the rules.”

In 1991, intercounty teams were officially told that they could put their sponsors' logos on their match shirts. adidas saw a window of opportunity. Kerry Group was now the county’s main sponsor so their logo would be placed front and centre across the chest. The adidas logo would be left off the shirt itself, but Three Stripe also produced adidas-branded shorts. For the All-Ireland semi-final against Down, the adidas shorts were worn in Croke Park. It was a victory for Three Stripe, albeit a small and short-lived one.

adidas training and leisurewear continued to be worn off the pitch and for that ’91 semi, new manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, who had replaced O’Dwyer in 1990, was fully decked out in adidas apparel. Wearing white adidas sneakers, black eighties/nineties-style adidas tracksuit pants, and a white adidas t-shirt, O’Sullivan wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Run DMC music video.

Unfortunately for O’Sullivan, Kerry and adidas, the following year would prove to be an annus horribilis.

The 1992 Munster final defeat to perennial also-rans Clare is considered by many to be the nadir of the so-called “lost years”, a period from 1987 to 1996 when Kerry failed to win an All-Ireland title. To make matters worse, adidas shut down its Irish operation towards the end of the year due to a change in EU trade policy.

“It was disappointing at the time,” Kelly recalls. “We had a very good relationship with adidas. Michael O’Connell was a great man to deal with and he had great regard for Kerry.”


For the first time since 1977, Kerry were in the market for a new kit supplier. O’Neills seemed to be the obvious choice, seeing as how they kitted out the vast majority of county teams. But, instead, they opted for Emerald Active Wear, a new Cork-based company that had been formed by three former adidas employees. Emerald took over the adidas licence from Three Stripe International but rather than supplying Kerry with adidas jerseys, they supplied jerseys under their own brand name.

Though Kelly describes the company as “dead sound”, the forced switch from adidas to Emerald was a costly one. The books noted an increase in overall team expenses of £33,198 in 1993, a figure secretary Tony O’Keeffe attributed in part to money spent on purchasing equipment and apparel.

However, “general sponsorship was opening up at the time so it wasn’t as big a blow as it might have been five or six years previously,” Kelly explains.

Emerald went under in March of 1996 so, once again, Kerry were left searching for a new supplier. Again, O’Neills would have been the frontrunners on paper, but the county board went with another start-up: Cork firm Millfield Textiles. Kelly, who would go on to become president of the GAA, says the decision to go with a smaller company was intentional.

“[O’Neills] were keen to come on board, and they probably would have been the favoured company generally, especially in Croke Park and so forth. But it was good to see other businesses [getting a chance] as well. We did a lot for competition over the years and I think Tony O’Keeffe as secretary deserves great credit. He put a lot of work into that side of things.

“It was good to be able to say, ‘look, there are other companies around that can fit the bill as well’. Monopolies are not good.”

Kerry’s victory in ‘97 will always be associated with Millfield, who produced special jerseys for the final that had an extra-large gold hoop so as to alleviate the colour clash with Mayo, who wore their traditional green and red.

But it wasn’t all about Millfield. Old friends adidas provided training wear and boots to the champions and when the cameras cut to manager Páidí Ó Sé on All-Ireland final day, he was wearing a yellow adidas polo shirt. The German brand remained on the sidelines, but they still harboured dreams of making a proper debut on the hallowed Croke Park turf.


Páidí Ó Sé in an adidas polo shirt during the 1997 All-Ireland final. Pic: David Maher/Sportsfile.


The Final Chapter

The summer of 1998 was not going all too well for adidas. At the World Cup in France, their major athletes were struggling. Alessandro del Piero was injured. Patrick Kluivert had been suspended for two games after elbowing an opponent. David Beckham used one of their Predator Accelerators to lash out at Diego Simeone as England crashed out at the hands of Argentina. And here in Ireland (not for the first time), the GAA were proving to be a major thorn in their side.

After Millfield ceased trading at the beginning of 1998, Kerry and adidas negotiated a major deal that would allow the German company to return and start making the county’s jerseys again. This time it would be different, however. This time, the logo would be there for the world to see.

Dublin company JA Hickey’s were enlisted as the necessary Irish manufacturer, and they were given permission to make the jerseys after paying a £10,000 licensing fee to the GAA.

Kerry, Hickey’s and adidas were under the impression that this was a green light to produce six sets of adidas-branded shirts for the various Kerry teams, but Croke Park later disputed this, saying the agreement did not include the use of the adidas logo. The new jerseys could only feature the Hickey’s logo, which naturally was of little use to adidas.

Writing for the Independent, Liam Horan said that things took a “dramatic turn for the worse when Croke Park demanded a ‘substantial’ donation from adidas, and this later mutated into ‘very substantial’”. Adidas are believed to have paid an additional fee of £10,000.

Horan also revealed that in 1997, O’Neills, who produced the vast majority of intercounty shirts, “contributed a figure substantially less than £10,000” for all of their jerseys combined.

Kerry wore Millfield jerseys in the league as the negotiations rumbled on into the summer. Towards the end of June, with their Munster Championship opener against Cork looming large on July 5, the All-Ireland champions were eventually told that they could wear the adidas jerseys – sans the adidas logo. It was also reported at the time that adidas would be allowed to include their ‘mountain’ logo on replica jerseys, but the GAA logo could not be used on this version.

Again, this did little to satisfy adidas, but at this stage they had no choice. They had to agree. Kerry wore unbranded adidas jerseys in the Munster semi-final victory over Cork and in the Munster final against Tipperary, which they also won.

Horan described the adidas jersey without the adidas logo as “burger without the chips”.


The jersey itself was vaguely reminiscent of the 1982 effort in that Kerry’s traditional emerald green was lightened to another unfamiliar shade. For the first time since the 1960s, it also featured a buttoned collar.


The 1998/99 Kerry shirt featuring adidas' 'mountain' logo.


The adidas design was certainly unique in terms of Gaelic games but, just like the seventies, Cork men technically wore the shirt first. Cork City FC sported the same template (albeit in red and white) during the 1997/98 season. The same jersey was also worn by English club Fulham, German side Karlsruher SC, and the Malaysian national team.

Tomás Ó Sé made his senior debut for Kerry in ’98 and the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of the adidas shirt is the fit.

“My recollection of the jersey itself was that you couldn’t fill it. They were all XL. I was young and I wasn’t fully developed so I was swimming in it. But even the big lads like Darragh (Ó Sé), they couldn’t fill it either. And the togs were the soccer-style togs. Lovely stuff, but they were big.

“It was a class jersey but my own initial thoughts on it was that it didn’t have the right colours. It wasn’t like the real Kerry jerseys of 1984-86. But yeah, looking back now, it is a cool jersey. We probably didn’t realise it at the time. I remember there was a big launch at the Fitzgerald Stadium and there was a great buzz about it, specifically because it was adidas.

“That was a mighty time. We got really nice navy tracksuits as well. Real retro stuff. We were being supplied with runners, boots, leisurewear… And there was plenty of it.

"There were boxes and boxes and boxes of gear coming down to us. Goalie gloves, Predators, Copas, World Cups. And it was a case of, ‘take whatever ye want there, lads’.”

Goalkeeper Declan O’Keeffe wore the adidas gloves, as did teammates William Kirby, Johnny Crowley and Aodán MacGearailt. (Outfield players wearing goalkeeper gloves was a popular trend in the late nineties.)

The adidas jersey may have received mixed reviews at the time but it has since become a much-coveted item amongst collectors. It regularly fetches sums of €150 to €250 online.


Eventually, the summer started to turn for the German sportswear giants. At the World Cup, Patrick Kluivert returned from suspension to fire the Dutch to the semi-finals, and France's star player, Zinedine Zidane, won the final for the hosts with two headed goals. Both Zidane and France were sponsored by adidas and defeating Brazil and Ronaldo, who wore Nike, made the victory all the sweeter.

At home, the GAA finally gave Kerry the go-ahead to add the adidas logo to their on-pitch gear. The news came in August, just in time for the All-Ireland semi-final against Kildare, who, coincidentally, were now managed by Mick O’Dwyer.

Kerry wore adidas-branded jerseys in Croke Park on August 30, 1998. It took them over 20 years to do it, but adidas had finally achieved their goal.


Maurice Fitzgerald in the controversial 1998/99 adidas jersey. Pic: Sportsfile.


Unfortunately for adidas and Kerry, Kildare won the match so the jerseys with the logo were worn only once that season. The protracted negotiations with Croke Park also meant that replica shirts (GAA logo included) were not available until after Kerry were knocked out of the championship. No matter what way you looked at it, it had not been a good deal for adidas.

The jerseys were used again in 1999 but if adidas were hoping for a more fruitful year, those hopes were short-lived. A stylish new away jersey, navy with white trim, was introduced and worn in the league quarter-final against Meath, which Kerry lost by four points. The Kingdom were beaten by Cork in the Munster final, and once again their season was over sooner than they would have liked.

Hickey’s closed towards the end of the year (the fourth company of the decade to cease trading while working with Kerry) but the county board and adidas were determined to carry their partnership into the new millennium. Croke Park were still uneasy about the deal, however, so in April of 2000 Kerry attempted to alter the rulebook in an official capacity. The stakes were high. If they were unsuccessful, the arrangement would have to be scrapped.

“We took a motion to congress in Galway in 2000 to change that rule,” then chairman Seán Walsh says, “but it got badly defeated. We got no support.”

And that was that. adidas were out.

Kerry urgently needed new gear and now, finally, O’Neills were top of the list.

“The following week, I went to O’Neills,” Walsh recalls. “It was a good deal and they were very, very happy to have us back. And I think they have served the county well.”

Kerry have worn O’Neills ever since.


adidas continued to provide boots to the Kerry team right up until relatively recently. (In 2016, the Gaelic Players Association struck a deal with the GAA which guaranteed, among other benefits, that players would receive an annual stipend of €375 to cover three pairs of footwear for the year.)

The relationship between Kerry and adidas (represented by Paul Moloney) remained strong for many years after the jersey deal ended, apart from a spot of bother in the early 2000s relating to free-taker Dara Ó Cinnéide wearing Puma Kings.

Today, the majority of Kerry players still wear adidas boots, with a handful preferring Nike. Puma footwear is rarely spotted on GAA pitches these days so adidas are winning that age-old battle, but, when it comes to jerseys, their other rivals are stronger than ever. O’Neills currently produce teamwear for 32 of the 34 men’s county teams (including London and New York), with just Azzurri (Waterford) and McKeever (Armagh) providing competition on that front. Foreign brands are still not allowed.

When he reflects on Kerry’s relationship with adidas down through the years, Michael O’Connell is clearly proud of what the pair achieved together. The agreement they struck was ground-breaking and it paved the way for major sponsorship deals down the line, which, in turn, have helped revolutionise the sport.

“In fairness to Kerry, they were very loyal to adidas – knowing, of course, how much they benefitted from us. I was delighted with them. They were the one county who stood up to the pressure from Croke Park.”

Kelly, who is now an MEP, believes that the agreement was “very good” for Kerry GAA.

“It was a creative and innovative move by Kerry. It gave a bit of recognition to the players, who were getting very little for putting their careers and social lives on hold. adidas provided high quality gear and they were very generous; they certainly didn’t spare it.

“I think it meant a lot to the players. They felt valued and appreciated, which was very important.”


An Hour with Paul Galvin: Drawing lines between football and fashion



by Adam Moynihan

Whenever you meet a famous man, the people you tell always ask the same question. “What’s he like?” But when that famous man is Paul Galvin, the question is delivered with a little more emphasis. As in, “what’s that fella actually like?”

The tone hints at a sort of weird scepticism that, for some, still pervades the very notion of a GAA player from Kerry pivoting to fashion. Add to that his on-field reputation for being an emotionally charged – if unquestionably skilled – force of nature, and his brooding demeanour, and it’s easy to see why people who don’t know him are keen to figure him out.

Earlier this week, Paul was kind enough to bring me in to Dunnes Stores Head Office in Dublin to show me around. After introducing me to a few of his colleagues in a ground-floor studio where models were posing in some of Dunnes’ latest offerings, he brought me up to a fourth-floor room with some nice seating and a balcony overlooking George’s Street.

Maybe the hour-long chat that followed would give me an idea of what Paul Galvin is “actually” like.


It’s patently true that the path that Galvin is walking is not well worn. After putting together a brilliant body of work with Kerry that included four All-Irelands, three All-Stars and a Footballer of the Year award in 2009, he retired in 2014 and turned his attention to clothing.

On the surface the two callings are worlds apart but Galvin doesn’t see it that way. He is adept at drawing lines and finding parallels between ostensibly disparate things. To him, the connections are obvious.

“It’s all very interlinked,” he explains. “Stadia, boots, footballs, jerseys. Everything was designed. If you don’t have design in sport, you don’t have the same sport. You might not even have the sport at all.”

He explores this relationship between design and sport in his latest collection for Dunnes. ‘Lines’ is inspired by the lines on a GAA pitch and the pieces in this collection include references to these markings. For example, the green and navy ‘Groundskeepers’ jacket has the inner lines of the pitch on the upper back, and the area around the goalmouth features on one of the sleeves.

The ‘Groundskeepers’ jacket from Paul Galvin’s ‘Lines’ collection, worn by Kerry model James O’Connor. Photo:

“I like the lines. I was always conscious of the pitch lines as a measuring tool in terms of proportions. There’s great proportions to the pitch and you can actually apply those measurements to clothing.”

He must sense that I’m not fully following.

“I do, anyway,” he adds.

“I use the pitch lines in my head for understanding proportions. When samples come in we would do a little bit on fit and I’d have a proportion in my head that works for the brand. I tend to measure the proportions by the pitch lines.

“The GAA pitch is an exercise in design. The groundskeeper is a designer. The same things are at play in tailoring.”

Galvin’s nine-year partnership with Dunnes is going strong and his admiration for the company is obvious. He classes them as an Irish “cultural institution”, alongside the likes of the GAA and RTÉ. Plus, they took a punt on him, and he knows it. 

“We started from scratch. I proposed this Irish men’s brand that I felt could offer something more meaningful in terms of storytelling and design. I was very fortunate that Dunnes understood that proposition and were willing to get behind it all those years ago.

“I think the brand has a good position in the market now and I think it’s understood that it’s a storytelling brand and there’s a good bit of meaning and intention behind it.”

Did he foresee it lasting this long?

“We didn’t know, really, like,” he admits. “Dunnes were taking a chance and I was just following intuition. I was following a vision for sure. But I felt because of the basis of it, because of the fact that I had studied the high street market and I knew what was missing, that it would have a good chance.

“The physical high street retailers like Topman, River Island, and H&M were foreign and they weren’t speaking our language, I felt. They weren’t speaking to the Irish guy. I felt [the clothes] could be more meaningful and educational and design-led. And they could tell stories.

“I just came with that approach and I felt that it would last in the market. But without Dunnes’ support it would have been almost impossible.

“I’ve a lot of respect for the team in here and for Dunnes as a business. I mean, obviously they gave me this opportunity which I appreciate, but I have also learned a lot from the people in here.

“I see first-hand the level of work and the ability to just pivot and understand the market and adapt to circumstances. It’s just a huge business.”

His collections for Dunnes are often inspired by individuals and last year he released Threads, an engaging book that brings to light these remarkable characters and their stories. Among the subjects are Harry Boland, Jack Butler Yeats and Samuel Beckett.

“It was a very Irish thing once upon a time to be well-presented and well-dressed. It was just about re-establishing those facts. I took a publishing approach and a writer’s approach to the collections. I saw each collection as a chapter. I figured at the end I would have a book. And that was the book.

“Really, it’s all writing to me (his fashion work). It was all in my head anyway. I knew each season was a chapter. They were already written to an extent. I got a lot of it done over lockdown in the car, actually. I did 40 or 50 thousand words in the car. That was quite quick. But then the last part was difficult because we had a new baby and that just took headspace and time and all that.

“I got some good reviews. I probably don’t do enough in that regard to be honest with you, in terms of the marketing and promotion of the thing. It performed pretty well.”

In the book Galvin speaks about the terminology that is used in fashion circles and how it can exclude your average man from rural Ireland. As he forged his way in the industry, he was adamant that a new way of talking about clothes was needed.

Paul Galvin at Dunnes Stores Head Office in Dublin. Photo: Adam Moynihan.

“I’d always be conscious of the dressing room, the building site, the team bus, the farm, the truck. I understand the language they speak and then I studied the language of fashion and, sure, it was clear that there was a disconnect. Those guys don’t speak that language. They don’t understand it.

“So I just used language and storytelling to bridge the gap. I have a whole vocabulary around the brand. Words and phrases that I use and words and phrases that I don’t use in any kinds of communications.”

Having said that, he has noticed a shift in attitudes over the past ten years or so when it comes to the way that young men are approaching style.

“I’ve experienced it through emails, DMs, even on the street, young fellas stopping me [to talk about clothes]. You notice it visibly on the streets. You see the trainers guys are wearing and the general style of young fellas.

“That says that they are leaning into it more. They’re not as afraid of it as they were ten years ago. There has definitely been a movement in that regard. It’s just generational, you know?”


Galvin’s days are varied as he balances his Dunnes work with managing his own company, Keohane Athletic Club. Keohane has produced several striking concept jerseys, a number of which are GAA-themed.

For instance, the ‘TRANSATLANTIC’ shirt features a print of the St Louis, a ship that carried GAA teams and Irish emigrants from Cobh to New York in the 1920s and 1930s.

The company is also making strides in the teamwear market, supplying gear to around 30 clubs including collaborations with Austin Stacks and St Brendan’s Board here in Kerry.

“On the Keohane side I’m dealing with clubs and designers and factories directly. Here [in Dunnes] I’m dealing with the team that deals with that stuff. I think it’s important to have that mix. Keohane gives me more exposure to the real difficult part of the business, which Dunnes have been doing for me for years.

“I see Keohane as more of a design agency for sporting organisations, really. It’s big on meaning and storytelling and club history. We want clubs who want to do it this way. It’s tough to do it the way I do it, but it hasn’t been too challenging to find those clubs.”

The Keohane stuff has been well-received but his most high-profile work in this arena to date came via a collaboration with a different brand. In 2017, Kerry GAA brought him in to design their new O’Neills playing kits.

The classy eighties-inspired home shirt and the daring gold and black away became firm favourites with Kerry supporters, so much so that subsequent kit launches have often been greeted with cries of “bring back Galvin”.

He brushes that part off when I mention it but it’s obvious that his work on the project is still a real source of pride.

“I loved working on it, sure. It was a real privilege to work on it for the fact that it was the Kerry jersey, number one, and that I played [for Kerry]. And secondly for the fact that I’m in that business. It was a great opportunity for me and it was great to work alongside O’Neills as well.

“You talk about cultural institutions, they’re another one. You have to respect how long they’re in the business. They’re in it a long time and they have a lot of knowledge.

“I’d love to be doing more of the Kerry jerseys to be honest with you. But that was one opportunity and another opportunity didn’t present itself. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any more input on the jerseys.

“And given I’m in the industry then, obviously I’m looking at the new jerseys coming out. I think I tweeted about the last one and said I didn’t love it. I probably shouldn’t have said that either, but anyway… I suppose part of it is the fact that I’d like to be working on it because I do think that there’s fierce power in a jersey and you’ve got to do your best to harness that and give the team the most powerful garment that you can.”

The Kerry home jersey that Paul Galvin designed for O’Neills. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.


I could talk to Paul about jerseys all day but I have a train to catch and we haven’t even broached the subject of football. (As it turned out, I missed the train.)

The 43-year-old’s last direct involvement with the game itself was a short spell as coach with Kildare in 2022. Prior to that he managed Wexford, but that stint was also brief. He stepped down in 2020 after less than year at the helm, citing personal and work reasons. With that in mind, I was curious to know if he’s interested in coaching again. His response is firm.

“Definitely. I love doing it and I definitely intend to get back into it. Last year I worked with Kildare behind the scenes on basically their build-up play, which is a big area of the game that I think is kind of unattended. They have a lot of talent there.

“But it was just… It was my mom. My mom got sick in the middle of it and I was pulled away from it. And then she passed the day of the Mayo-Kildare game in the championship. So I just wanted to give time to family after that, d’you know what I mean?

“But yeah, I have a programme that I implement so that’s what I did last year with them. The management understood it. The players understood it. I’ll get back to it soon enough, I’m sure.”

Just coaching, or would a manager’s role be tempting?

“I don’t know. It could be either. It depends on the opportunity. I’m always thankful for opportunities in life. It’s one of the things that I’ve been very blessed with. Working with Dunnes is an example. Working on the Kerry jersey is another example. I’m always, on a daily basis, very aware of the luck that comes with opportunity. When someone picks up the phone and asks you to do X, Y or Z – that’s a privilege.

“In terms of football, we (Paul and his wife, Louise) are back here based in Dublin and we have been since our second girl was born (Elin, a younger sister for Esmé). That has made things a little more difficult for me. I don’t know. It depends on what opportunities present themselves. That will dictate what I do.”

I put it to Paul that between the 2020 and 2021 seasons he was rumoured to have been approached by then Kerry manager Peter Keane about coming on board in some capacity. Kerry were coming off the back of a rough defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final and Keane was looking for a new face. It was widely reported that Galvin was in line for a coaching position.

While he refused to be drawn on Keane and Kerry specifically, he says he did get calls from some counties and clubs at the time.

“But I was just out of Wexford,” he reflects. “Things were fragmented with Covid and all that. I didn’t feel the timing was great. It was a pity. It was a pity because it was an opportunity to be involved at a high level. Of course that’s where you want to be: at the highest level possible.”

Another factor was that several enquiries – if acted upon – would have placed him in direct competition with Kerry when it came to competing for All-Irelands, which he didn’t want.

I ask if Kerry would appeal more than any other team – before quickly realising that it’s a stupid question and self-correcting. He answers it anyway, in fairness to him.

“Of course, like. You could say that applies to nearly everybody. But I don’t ever get involved in speculation or making statements. Again, it’s a privilege. I think if you’re lucky it might come around and if not… I don’t like to bang any drums about it or make any big statements about it.”

As a player, Galvin was handed his first championship start versus Clare in 2004 by the current Kerry manager, Jack O’Connor. I had heard that the two are still friendly. As he begins to speak about their relationship, he takes a deep breath, as though he’s about to delve into something important.

“God… For me the relationship is just one of respect. I would have full respect for him and a lot of warmth towards him, because Jack is really like a father figure to me in terms of football. He’s one of three men really – my father, Eamonn Fitzmaurice Senior and Jack – who were the big influences on me in my formative years.

“Jack got a hold of me in my late teens/early twenties. Just a huge point of my life. So formatively, in sporting terms, I see Jack as a father figure for sure.

“And then, sure, it becomes a personal development type of thing. He was a huge part of my development as a footballer. He was a huge part of my development as a person. I have a lot of warmth for him. Huge respect for him.

“I think Jack saw me in a county schools final when I was playing for Causeway against what was then Cahersiveen Post-Primary. He was managing them and I got around five points from play from midfield. I was maybe 16 or 17 and I think I was in his head six or seven years later when he got the Kerry job. I was 23 then. So he had me earmarked.”

“He strikes me as a man who knows what he wants,” I offer.

“Exactly. He knows what he wants and he knew from me it was A, B, C. Do A, B and C and we’ll go from there. That was a gift for a player like me because I needed the direction and I needed the coaching.

“Even now, a lot of how I think about football is informed by some of the stuff that I learned from Jack back then.”

With that level of respect and admiration for the man in his heart and mind, Galvin naturally says he was “delighted” that O’Connor was able to steer Kerry to a long-awaited All-Ireland in 2022, in what was his first year back in charge of the team since 2012. But he stops short of calling it the Dromid bainisteoir’s greatest achievement.

“I won’t say it was his best ever year because in 2004 he was exceptional. You’ll remember that the 2004 team won an All-Ireland without Séamus Moynihan and Darragh Ó Sé. And you think of where they were in 2003 after Tyrone did what they did…

“If a fella was to say to you that in 12 months you’ll have the All-Ireland won but you’ll have no Darragh Ó Sé and you’ll have no Séamus Moynihan on the day. You’d be saying to yourself, you must have some exceptional manager or coach in mind if you think that’s going to happen. Right? And that’s what happened.

“So you’re dealing with someone really exceptional. Sure, I saw it first-hand. It was all very drilled and broken down. We were reprogrammed. We were given very specific direction.

“Having said that, I look back at Páidí Ó Sé’s teams and some of the football they played was amazing. A brilliant watch. Some of the football up to 2002… Even going back to the nineties. Jeez it was fantastic football to watch. But what makes you, breaks you in football. Whatever you lean into for a while you’ve got to be quick to get out of it early and push on to something new. That’s for sure. What makes you eventually breaks you.

“But Jack is very intuitive and he’s also optimistic. I always make the distinction between natural optimism and positivity. Optimism is far more powerful. Positivity is almost a commodity now. It can be pretended and it can be acted. Jack was always an optimistic person and optimism can lead you to great places.

“I do think part of that journey he’s on now is his innate intuition and personality.”

Galvin in action for Kerry at Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium in 2012. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile.

The Kingdom have endured a rocky start to the season and they find themselves needing points from at least one of their two remaining Division 1 games against Roscommon and Galway to avoid relegation.

Galvin believes that retaining their All-Ireland crown will prove “challenging” but he takes heart from the number of key players that are now returning from injury.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult year and the league has proven that. But it often goes that way when a year is so perfect, the following year can be the opposite. That’s not to say things will go haywire for Kerry this year but I think it’s going to be challenging. I think it’s going to be the most competitive championship we’ve seen in 10 or 15 years. The hungriest ones have the advantage in that regard.

“Kerry should have hunger but it’ll need to come together now over the next couple of weeks. I’m sure the championship has been the big focus.

“Injuries are obviously going to play a part and they seem to be patching up injuries to an extent. Jack will want competitive A v B games and you don’t get them if you have players carrying knocks and that kind of thing. It affects the competitiveness of your training. That’s where I think every All-Ireland is won.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Galvin has a lot of time for Paudie Clifford. The Fossa captain has been a revelation since being promoted to a starter’s role in 2021, emerging as an essential puller of strings in Kerry’s attack and earning two straight All-Stars in the process.

“I’ve been watching Paudie for a while and I must say there’s a lot to like about him as a player.”

When he mentions Paudie’s name, I automatically ask if there’s a touch of Paul Galvin about him. There is, in my opinion, and I think a lot of Kerry supporters would agree.

“I don’t know. I just like him. I think he’s himself. He’s got his own character. I like everything about him really.

“Obviously you’d be so proud looking at David as well. He’s just a great representation for the county.

“And I think Tony Brosnan has something that not many players have. It’s up to the likes of him this year. I think he will have to have a big year because I do think he’s got a rare talent. He’s got a great appreciation for what’s going on around him. Great ability to pass. He’s an unusual type of player.

“And then Jason Foley being from North Kerry. I like to see that. The North Kerry defenders are always valuable. North Kerry is an important breeding ground for Kerry.

“They’re a very likeable bunch in general so hopefully they’ll have more success.”

In terms of football, things have been relatively lean around North Kerry for a number of years but Galvin was happy to see his former district side, Feale Rangers, reach last year’s county semi-final. The lack of North Kerry footballers making the Kerry panel has been a concern for GAA figures in the area for some time so there is hope that Rangers’ run might signal some kind of a renaissance.

“We’re probably not producing enough players over the last while, but I think that starts with the individual clubs. My own club (Finuge) have a couple of very good young fellas coming through that will hopefully go the distance. Every club has that responsibility to produce the best possible player they can for the county.

“I think Kerry will always need a Finuge player. Clubs produce a certain type of player. There’s a club culture and there’s a county culture. Hopefully we have a couple more in the pipeline.”

He has been to a lot of club games in Dublin and in his wife’s native Mayo in recent years but, interestingly, he rarely goes to see Kerry in action, preferring instead to watch the matches on TV.

“I’d say I’ve been to the [Fitzgerald] Stadium once since I’ve retired. I haven’t been to a whole pile of Kerry games. I just feel like when you’re out of it you just stay out of it – unless you’re back in it.”

I wonder out loud if there’s an emotional reason for that. Maybe, after it being such a huge part of his life for so long, he felt a need to park it. To move on.

“Maybe it’s a rest from it,” he suggests. “For me, I definitely needed a rest from it. I needed to get out of Kerry and move into something new that would occupy my mind and interest me, something I could build and grow and improve at and try to become the best at. I definitely needed that change.

“But I keep a close eye from afar.”

With that I switch off the voice recorder. Another colleague joins us and we chat away for a while. London footwear designer Helen Kirkum is upcycling parts of old sneakers to make new ones. The phone is passed around so we can take a look. “Class,” Galvin says as he scrolls through the photos.

A minute ago we were talking about footballers from Finuge. But it’s all connected. It just comes down to drawing lines and finding parallels.

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A red tie affair for Rathmore GAA

By Sean Moriarty Rathmore GAA Club celebrated its most-successful season ever with a gala awards presentation at the weekend. The club celebrated a never-to-be-forgotten 2022 at the Killarney Heights Hotel […]




By Sean Moriarty

Rathmore GAA Club celebrated its most-successful season ever with a gala awards presentation at the weekend.

The club celebrated a never-to-be-forgotten 2022 at the Killarney Heights Hotel and honoured some of its star players that led both club and county to national success over the last 12 months.

Former Kerry footballer, Aidan O’Mahony, who announced his retirement from football late last year, was honoured for his commitment to the club over the years.

The club won three major titles last season and the Kerry, Munster and All-Ireland Intermediate Championship cups were on display. The management team of Tim Cronin, Denis Moynihan and Dan O’Sullivan were also honoured on the night.

“It was an absolutely marvellous night and one to be remembered – we had a highly successful year to celebrate,” club PRO Diarmuid McCarthy told the Killarney Advertiser.

The club also supplied two players to Jack O’Connor’s All-Ireland-winning Kerry team and both Kerry goalkeeper Shane Ryan and half-back Paul Murphy were also recognised on the night.

“Our two county players had a wonderful year,” said Diarmuid.

Brian Friel was named as the Club Player of the Year and the prestigious Club Person of the Year award went to secretary Mike Cronin.

“It was richly deserved, I don’t know how Mike keeps on top of everything,” added the PRO.

Minor Fionn Murphy was also honoured after he won an All Star award for Kerry last season.

The club PRO thanked the organising committee, Deborah Daly, Emma Copper-Buckley, Tim O’Brien, Fintan Twomey and Don Casey for putting on an event that “was organised to a tee”.

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