Thursday, November 29, 2012


Joycey, A Galway Legend
An era in Galway football has come to an end with Pádraic Joyce deciding to retire after a 15-year career in which he won almost every major honour in the game.

The decision by the 35-year old brings a glorious period for Galway football to an end.

It started in 1998 when Joyce and a host of other young players burst on the scene to end over three decades of frustration for Galway and Connacht football when they stormed to All-Ireland glory.

But the last remaining member of that team has now decided to leave the stage after 15 years of top flight football.

Most of Joyce’s inter-county success came in the early years but he continued to soldier on in the fast few seasons despite a series of heartbreaking narrow defeats and Galway's propensity to frequently keep changing their manager.

Joyce also seems likely to retire from club football after winning four county titles with Killererin, but he has not made a final decision on this.

A combination of increased work commitments – he has his wife Tracey run a busy recruitment company PJ Personnel Ltd – and elevated demands of training are the primary factors in him reaching his decision.

“Of course I can't go on playing for ever and I gave it some thought as other lads called a halt in recent years, but decided to persevere. But now the time is right to get out.

“I have been very fortunate to have played with some great teams at club, schools, college, inter-county and international. I have also been blessed to have had some great managers and some great playing colleagues so I can have no complaints. The county board also has always offered great support.”

Joyce first emerged on the scene as part of the St Jarlath's College Hogan Cup winning team of 1994, which also provided the Meehan brothers Declan and Tomas, Michael Donnellan, John Divilly and his own brother Tommie for the Galway team which ended a 32-year barren wait for All-Ireland glory when they defeated Kildare in the 1998 All-Ireland final.

That was Joyce's debut season for Galway and was also John O'Mahony's first year in charge. Joyce had some managers — starting with the likes the late Fr Ollie Hughes and Joe Long at St Jarlath's and Val Andrews in IT Tralee — in his career but O'Mahony will always hold a special place.

“He was so well organised. This was before mobile phones and email, but he would give us a sheet with the entire month planned and nobody deviated from that.

“He had a great way with players and I am extremely grateful to him for giving me the chance. He achieved an awful lot for Galway football and it is only as time goes on that you really appreciate what he did,” said Joyce.

That first year was geared entirely towards dethroning Mayo in the first round — it was knockout back then with no second chance — and once that was achieved, Galway went on to defeat Leitrim and Roscommon in a replay to win the Connacht title.

They then accounted for Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final and defeated Mick O'Dwyer's Kildare in the final.

It was some debut season for Joyce — six championship matches, five wins and a draw, a Connacht medal and an All-Ireland. There were some on the coach back to Galway, the likes of Kevin Walsh, Tomas Mannion and Sean Og de Paor, who had chalked up close on 40 championship matches at that stage.

But disappointment soon followed for Galway. Mayo gained revenge in 1999 in Tuam and then one of Joyce's most disappointing days when he captained Galway in the 2000 All-Ireland against Kerry, but had to watch his good friend and former IT Tralee colleague Seamus Moynihan collect Sam.

A year later there was glory again for Joyce when they became the first team to win the All-Ireland through the back door against Meath, and Joyce picked up his third All-Star and the Texaco footballer of the year.

Since then four Connacht titles have been the extent of the reward. The county has not won a game outside Connacht since their qualifier win over Louth in 2003.

“That's hard to believe because we have had good teams in those years, but sometimes it just doesn’t go for you. Changing the manager so often probably hasn’t helped but we still should have won a lot more.”

Success with Killererin kept Joyce motivated, while the regular changing of the Galway manager also set challenges which he reveled in, but now he feels it is time to step aside.

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