Posted by Ewan MacKenna

2012 Galvin Clare 520x280

Two moments. The first, a biting Saturday night at the start of February and Paul Galvin was one of the reasons that the All Ireland champions couldn't live with Kerry.

He was tough but fair, brilliant yet measured and looked to be returning to his old self just when his county needed him. The second, the following day in a studio in Princes Street in Dublin and he talked to Paul Kimmage on the Setanta chat show, iTalk Sport.

He was reflective yet engaging, thoughtful yet humble and looked to be a different and more mature person than the one that had seen himself as bigger than the game and bigger than his county time and again. It got you thinking of all the good he has done in his career and how he evolved his game to fill a very new role in football that helped Kerry conquer.

But you'd want to have been raw to be fooled by it all because we've been here before with Galvin and if anything he has ruined his own CV. Few think about his toughness and work rate. Few think of him hurtling down the tracks and into Ciarán Whelan in 2004 in a tackle that left him unsteady for days.

Few think of him taking on Monaghan's enforcers in 2007 and not letting them know he'd lost a lot of feeling in his arms by the end of it. Few think of him as the 2009 Footballer of the Year. And he has only himself to blame for all of that as the tortured artist means he can only get so many congratulatory handshakes before he can take no more and uses his hands for something else.

Go back in time and locally it's reckoned that he got sent off somewhere around 15 times in his mid-teens alone. People can talk about the length of the ban for slapping a notebook out of Paddy Russell's hands in a meaningless game against Clare but they forget the context of that year.

Indeed at the start of the 2008 season, as the championship opened out on front of him and he mused over captaining Kerry to an All Ireland, he was asked about breaking the jaw of Ballylongford player Liam Foley. His response? "There was a bit of stuff going on there. I don't know what to say. He was a lad getting a bit carried away. I didn't mean to break his jaw either. I don't know if I would regret it. I haven't thought about it all that much since."

They were words that were telling because how can you learn from your mistakes if you ignore them and it's little wonder this was the same player that, with Kerry cruising towards the tail end of the 2007 All Ireland, and with him substituted so he could have a victory walk, he stormed passed Pat O'Shea and took a seat in the substitute's area with neither a teammate nor a smile anywhere nearby.

Little wonder in 2010 against Cork he picked up another lengthy ban when his performance alone should have been good enough to answer Cork's attempts at unsettling him. Little wonder last weekend - at a time when Kerry have never needed him more because of the names they've lost and the teams ahead of them in the pile - he blew up again and should have missed at the very minimum this weekend's quarter-final on Donegal for nearly decapitating John Hayes when the game was long over.

Moments like that are inexplicable but people make too many excuses for him. He's misunderstood and he's different - but none of that explains letting your county down when the game is up. He's edgy and he's wound-up - but both Darragh and Tomás Ó Sé played near the edge for years and won it rather than lost it.

But perhaps the biggest apologist of all has been Galvin's own mentor. There's no doubting Jack O'Connor is one of the great managers and he's helped hone all the positives of Galvin's game but he's helped fuel all the negatives too. We don't know what was said in private between the two but the fact Galvin has never learned from his mistakes or was never taught a lesson suggests not a lot.

Go back to June 2010 and that fish hook against Cork. To understand its severity, just take a look at the rules of one of the most vicious and violent sports about - mixed martial arts. The following is a list of what is universally banned in MMA: head butting, eye gouging, hair pulling, biting, attacking the groin, strikes to the trachea and fish hooking. That's the kind of company it keeps and the reason given for banning fish hooking is the severe risk of permanent injury.

Yet after that game all O'Connor did was talk of boycotting the national broadcaster for highlighting the incident. And sadly, if Galvin hasn't changed, then neither has O'Connor. In fact after that challenge last weekend, O'Connor's comments were bizarre. Instead of going with the 'I-didn't-see-it-line' he openly defended his player for the worst and most stupid tackle of this summer.

"(Taking Galvin off) was in our thoughts alright, but both yellow cards were harmless enough," he said of a violent clothes-line that could have ended a fellow-players career and much worse.

"Paul is playing great stuff at the moment, we just wanted him to keep the momentum going. Players will tackle, and it looked like he mistimed it, that’s all."

It was another example of the former teacher not being taught a lesson and the travesty is officialdom can't either after Maurice Deegan winced out of another controversy and awarded just a yellow, meaning the incident cannot be revisited.

But Galvin didn't know that when he lost his cool and went for a player that may well have been in his black book all these years. He can only have imagined a straight red when tackling a guy around the neck and had that happened, he'd have done what he's done time and again during his career. He'd have reached a playing summit and thrown himself off of it straight away with a stupid act of petulance that let down his team and his teammates.

It was the sort of selfish act that he'll be remembered for when, with a bit of self control, moments like those two in February could have come to define him.

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