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laughable ‘Absolute nonsense' - Paul Geaney rubbishes rumours of unrest in Kerry camp 

We’re hugely enthusiastic about this season. We can’t wait for it,’ says Kerry star

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Paul Geaney with the Dingle Peninsula in the background as part of the GPA’s Return to Play event to mark the first season where all senior inter-county players are part of the one player association. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Paul Geaney with the Dingle Peninsula in the background as part of the GPA’s Return to Play event to mark the first season where all senior inter-county players are part of the one player association. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Paul Geaney with the Dingle Peninsula in the background as part of the GPA’s Return to Play event to mark the first season where all senior inter-county players are part of the one player association. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It should read "Paul Geaney imagines last year’s Munster semi-final playing on a loop in Room 101. "

The torture chamber depicted in George Orwell’s 1984 was where prisoners were subjected to their own worst nightmares, fears and phobias with the objective of breaking their resistance.

Injured and prevented by Covid restrictions from going to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Geaney watched the unfolding horror with his father in their family’s bar in Dingle.

Outside, it was dark, wet and miserably cold.

Inside, the pub was empty but for Geaney senior and junior, their business now closed for nine of the past 12 months.

“The next thing, a late goal and we’re pipped,” he recalls.

“I turned my mind straight away to the boys in Cork, who had to travel individually to the game and then back again.

“Tom O’Sullivan, a clubmate and a good friend of mine, was just up the road. I didn’t speak to him for a month afterwards. It was tough.”

And then the rumours started.

Geaney is 30. This is his 10th year as a Kerry senior.

As he quips: “If I’d a euro for every rumour I heard, I wouldn’t worry about having to open the pub next month.”

But while we’re on the subject.

“Just to put a bottom line on it while I have the chance now: it’s absolute nonsense,” he says of the alleged friction the Cork defeat supposedly created between some senior Kerry players and Peter Keane.

“We’re fully behind the management team. I couldn’t be stronger on that.

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“As an elder statesman in the team, it’s important to really underline that. We’re very happy with the set-up. We’ve learned from the Cork game. And we’re looking forward to showing what we’ve learned.”

It was a bumper year for WhatsApp GAA rumours, a modern strand of the winter talk genre.

Kerry were, apparently, on the brink of Civil War.

The Kilkenny hurlers had themselves an old-school dressing-room bust-up after defeat to Waterford.

At one stage, Jack McCaffrey was even parachuted back into the Dublin panel for the All-Ireland final.

All unfounded. But, as Geaney points out, the GAA rumour mill abhors a vacuum.

“I suppose it was a long winter,” he says. “The fact we didn’t have another interview until the captaincy was announced or whatever . . . I ended up throwing out a tweet saying it was ‘fake news’ and I didn’t think any more than that.

“There’s been worse said about other players in other situations so it’s just something in general that people in society have to deal with in this day and age because rumours can spread like wildfire.”

Naturally, Kerry weren’t spared a grizzly post-mortem.

In the Kingdom, they’re intimately unfamiliar with the concept of a nuclear winter.

But last year, in particular, the range of local topics of conversation wasn’t great: a last-minute championship defeat to Cork or a killer virus.

They’d eased to a league title and, as Geaney explains, made huge gains physically during the lockdown.

“This team has developed an awful lot,” he stresses. “It has developed strength and conditioning since the Dublin replay a couple of years ago.”

But that was all forgotten once Mark Keane’s goal went in.

Mostly, criticism cut at their style of play. Many observers insisted that in selecting all three of Brian Ó Beaglaioch, Ronan Buckley and Dara Moynihan in Kerry’s starting forward line-up, Keane had fielded too few recognised scorers up front.

That he had sacrificed artillery for energy and security. Perhaps even with one eye on Dublin?

“I don’t think we were overly defensive,” Geaney insists.

“If you do look at it again, you’ll see an awful lot of energy from Kerry players in defensive situations. I think it’s perception that maybe comes from commentators.

“They say, ‘Oh, Kerry have 14 men behind the ball,’ and then it goes into the public psyche. Dublin do it too. I don’t believe we were defensive really.”

Whether or not he is of a mind to absorb it, Geaney is well perched to gauge the public mood in Kerry.

Following the banning of takeaway alcohol in January, he kitted out a van and started doing deliveries, ferrying pints around his little pocket of West Kerry.

It shortened the evenings. Kept things ticking over with the pub.

“The excitement of bringing pints to people who hadn’t seen a draught pint in a while – it was like being Santa on Christmas morning,” he laughs.

Similarly, he has sensed in recent weeks a building anticipation in the county about the imminent GAA season.

The other day, Geaney heard a cuckoo for the first time this year. Afterwards, he told his wife Siún, a daughter of Páidí Ó Sé.

“She said her dad used to say when the cuckoo came out that he used to start saying it was nearly time to get into the zone – because he didn’t have much time for the leagues – and time for the backs to get tighter.”

“We’re hugely enthusiastic about this season. We can’t wait for it.”

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