Undoubtedly, two of the greatest teams in modern Gaelic football have to be today’s Dublin under Jim Galvin and Kerry in the late ’70s and ’80s stewarded by Mick O’Dwyer. The Kingdom fielded, unsuccessfully, for five-in-a-row in 1982 and the Dubs will be looking to trump them in the next couple of seasons.

Having come to fruition in different eras, unfortunately, what would most likely be a battle of epic proportions can never be. But taking impossibility from the situation, if they could play each other, who would win?

Irish Country Living poses this question to the one and only Pat Spillane, one of Micko’s men and now a Sunday Game analyst, whose football portfolio encompasses eight All-Irelands and nine All-Stars. Initially, I wonder will he dance around the enquiry, perhaps citing the logistical differences.

More wrong I couldn’t have been – but, after all, Pat is not known for mincing his words.

They wouldn’t hold a candle to us.

"Maybe I’m completely biased, but no,” he says with a laugh. “That was just a very special team. Not alone did we win everything, but we just hammered teams. Dublin’s last three All-Ireland finals have been a draw and two one-point victories.

“Anytime I talk – whether it’s to school kids, sports teams or at rural meetings – I always tell the Mick O’Dwyer story. It’s a philosophy that has taken me through life,” explains Pat.

“With Micko, we played in 10 All-Ireland finals. Micko’s team talks: there were two things he never spoke about, he never spoke about the opposition and he never spoke about the opposition’s key player and how we could stop them.

“It was all about belief in ourselves and belief in our ability. To us, our glass was always half full, it was never half empty. I see it here with rural Ireland too, and I say: ‘I see a glass half full. I don’t see a glass half empty.”

Using the Micko mentality

In his retirement from his career as a secondary school principal, Pat is now an ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Ireland. He originally became involved in the Action Plan because he was frustrated with attending meetings that pointed out the problems of rural Ireland, but offered no solutions. He wanted to be proactive, not sit on the bench.

In this role, Pat is the man on the ground, meeting with rural communities and reporting back to the Department of Rural and Community Development about the good, bad and indifferent that people experience in rural Ireland.

To this mantel, the Templenoe man has brought Micko’s glass-half-full mentality, instilled in him through football. Rural Ireland is not without its challenges, he says, but there are also a lot of good aspects to focus on: the enthusiasm of communities and the innovation of people.

For Pat, the key to creating a better rural Ireland is working together right across the board. “We need to work together. It’s not an urban-rural thing, it’s not Dublin against the rest. A rising tide lifts all boats,” he reflects.

“We are not looking for a special case. The message we want to send out is that rural Ireland isn’t synonymous with decline, it’s not all about grants, subsidies or welfare. It’s vibrant, it’s prosperous and employment has grown in most regions. All you are asking for, is that the people of rural Ireland can have the same access to jobs and services as the people in urban areas.”

Pat most definitely fits the bill as an ambassador. There is no question over his ability to speak and put points across, but he also says, believe it or not, he is well able to listen too.

"Am I the person you see on television? No, I’m not. I talk for four hours every year on television. I give opinions and I give strong opinions, but is that me? No, me is different.”

It is the passion and local nature of the GAA, Pat believes, that gets people so worked up over criticism, but to him, he just calls it as he sees it.

I will not call a spade an agricultural instrument: if it’s a bad match, it’s a bad match.

“Like I said to somebody once: I’m not Hans Christian Anderson, I don’t deal in fairy tales. If it’s a bad match, if someone has struck a foul blow, it’s a bad match. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

As an analyst, Pat says that he is quite hard on himself, but stands over his views. Anonymous rants on social media are tough to take, but overall the good certainly outweighs the bad. “The ultimate goal in life is to get paid for your hobby, whether it be as a soccer player, a singer or a comedian. I suppose the next best thing in life is to get paid for talking about your hobby. I would be going to all these matches anyway,” he deduces.

Kingdom come

Pat seems to be passionate about rural Ireland, Kerry and football in equal measures. While he is an ambassador for all of rural Ireland and could be in both Donegal and Waterford in any given month through this role, it is with his home county and football he will always be synonymous.

“Wearing the Kerry jersey fills you with pride for a start, but it fills you with belief too. The flame of Kerry football has been passed on to you, it’s a proud flame – and it’s a very successful flame. It’s about pride in the county, pride in the place.”

During his inter-county career, Pat was no stranger to either success or adversity. After winning five All-Irelands, Pat ruptured his cruciate ligament. Many said it would be the end of his footballing days but, of course, he set out to prove them wrong.

“I ruptured my cruciate in 1982, so I was told I would never again play football. I said: ‘I’ll try to prove them wrong.’ Even though they said no, I went to England and got an operation. I came back, really pushed myself through hell and we won in 1984,” remembers Pat.

“That has to be memorable, because you never thought you would be playing again.

1985 and 1886 we won again, three extra All-Ireland medals that I never thought I’d be part of, but we had great days.

“I have a pain in my knee now, I know I need a knee replacement very soon. People say: ‘Well, you must have regrets?’ I have no regrets. If I turned the clocks back tomorrow morning, I would do it all over again.”

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