PAUL GERAGHTY turns 30 next month. Anybody who has ever been 29-and-11-months will be able to relate to his attitude to the fast-approaching milestone.
“I’m trying to push that to one side for now, forget about it.”
Time doesn’t forget about us though, it creeps up while we focus on something, anything, else. At 30 your body isn’t quite so supple, so regenerative as it was what feels like only yesterday.
After coming on as a sub against Sligo last month and making his presence felt with a shuddering shoulder on James Kilcullen, which needed the precautionary presence of an ambulance on the field, Geraghty began to feel the pace.
“I was kind of thinking to myself maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t start because we would have been blowing a lot of smoke,” he says.
Almost 30, due to be married next year, looking to buy a house and in charge of his own construction firm, Glencivils Ltd, Geraghty does not seem like your typical London footballer on paper.
On grass, though, he still very much looks the part. The Galway man, who has been in London five-and-a-half years, gave just a glimpse of the physicality and impetus he can imbue the team with during his second-half cameo against Sligo.
He was a key figure in London’s eye-catching summer of 2011 and many observers feel the comparative lack of success last year was down to his suspension-induced sabbatical.
The team felt for his absence, but Geraghty felt the absence of his team more deeply.
“The main thing I noticed in the year out was just seeing how much you miss it,” he says. “I started playing Aussie Rules, a lot of rugby and soccer and still couldn’t fill the hole of missing the game.
“You’re building up to play one game out here… but you’d still prefer to be out here running in January, doing all the training, trying to get ready for that game… You miss it, it’s a big hole.”
The unity of purpose, the common goal of playing and winning for London has, he says, binded the panel together tight.
“Well, anyone that gets here travels probably a couple of hours so nobody wants to have a jersey less than 15. When you have that bit of competition everybody gels together. You build a camaraderie that only comes through competitiveness.”
Geraghty joined the panel relatively late this term but has benefitted from the attention of physical trainer Paul Murphy, from Fermanagh.
“He’s very effective, works on flexibility a lot,” says Geraghty. “When he gets the flexibility of every player right he works on their strength. For him, that’s more important than long-distance running, speed, stuff like that. He analyses everyone and adapts training programmes to suit everyone individually.
“I probably wouldn’t be that quick, so there’s no point in keeping on working on that because I’m not going to get quicker. It’s just the flexibility and that reduces the injuries. Even with hard hits, it doesn’t seem to affect me as much as it used to.”
The Neasden Gaels man has struggled with his knees and back for a long time. The back no longer bothers him. This he credits to Murphy’s input.
But two months ago in Greenford he took a knock that Murphy could not have prevented. The ground had just become firm and Geraghty came down hard. His knee swelled, then got infected.
The swelling hasn’t subsided significantly. The medics believe there is “something deeper” behind the problem. Geraghty’s policy on the knee, though, is similar to that on his big three-oh…
“I’m trying to forget about it.”
So long as he sees some game time and has a chance to alter the course of the afternoon to London’s benefit, he can worry about battered bones later.
In the meantime, his thoughts are on approaching the game in the right manner which, he says, is “low-key”. The hype-bandwagon that hitched itself to the London cause in advance of the Waterford qualifier in 2011 culminated in Sky Sports filming training sessions and concentration being diverted. He is determined for that not to happen again.
“Mentally we probably faltered there,” says Geraghty, one of two London players sent off that day as the Deise kicked on to win 1-17 to 0-13. “I think we were favourites going into that game, we were expected to win it. I think that was our biggest problem. We should never have let that mentality get inside our heads.
“Even last year, I wasn’t involved, but coming into the Leitrim game the big talk was everybody was confident we were going to beat Leitrim. Straight away I’d see that as a problem. There’s a reason why London haven’t won games in a long time. I think that was creeping back into the guys’ heads last year. This year that doesn’t seem to be there.”
What is there, is a burning will to win from the players, both for themselves and the community they represent.
“The win against Sligo, when you see guys here 30, 40 years and how much it means to them, that rubs off. I think even the guys that are here relatively short term, they can see that too. It’s infectious.”
Thirty years from now, who is to say Geraghty won’t be one of those men on the bank? He is, he says, “happy here, settled down”.
He’d be proud to be seen as somebody who once played for London. More proud, though, to be somebody who won for London.
He hasn’t got forever to achieve that. Your time as a player is precious and travels at pace. Paul Geraghty has lost enough of it and is now a man in a hurry. If you doubt that, just ask James Kilcullen.