"I have more work done than any player in Ireland" - The Trevor Giles tribute show
Easter 1999 and Trevor Giles was enjoying life Down Under.
A physio for the Irish under-17 compromise rules team, the Skryne club man settled in well on the other side of the world. Sleeveless AFL jerseys are all the rage in those parts and Giles made sure to look the part.
"When I was over there, I bought a couple of the jerseys - St Kilda and the likes - and I used to wear them training with Meath when I came back then," he says on his GAA Hour tribute show, recalling a story that will forever be synonymous with his name.
The Irish summer of '99 was a scorcher and comfortable in his new style, a quip from teammate Ollie Murphy the night before the '99 Leinster final got Giles thinking.
"The night before the Leinster final - Ollie Murphy said to me 'God it would be great if we had sleeveless jerseys for tomorrow against Dublin.' It just set my mind thinking.
"I had a load of number 11 jerseys at home and I said right sure I'll cut the sleeves off one, and that was it! I didn't get any calls of Louis Copeland subsequently..."
But this was a lot more than just an attention-seeking fashion statement. A naturally soft-spoken and unassuming person, it wouldn't have been Giles' style to draw attention to himself or to try and stand out. More-so, it was a statement to himself, after all the work he'd put in to recover from a cruciate ligament injury earlier that year.
"It was very unlike me," he says.
"That wasn't my style to be honest, to stand out and that. But the way I looked at it that year was that I was after working really, really hard to come back from the cruciate. I was putting in four hours a day because I really, really wanted to get back playing. I had missed the game and was hungry and I just felt that year, I have a load of work done here, I have more work done than any player in Ireland. Confidence was high and I just felt I could do this, I could wear this jersey and still play really well. I'm not saying I had that confidence every year but that was my mindset at the time..."
"We got two early enough frees on the left of the 21 and I missed both of them. Sure I'm just thinking 'what an eejit you are, wearing a fancy jersey and missing simple frees.' I managed to get the more difficult third one and thankfully we went onto win it!"
Meath won Leinster, followed it up with an All-Ireland before Giles became the first player ever to regain the Footballer of the Year award. But the year wasn't without its controversies and he admits now, that the sleeveless jersey saga may have gone a bit too far.
"I played well against Dublin and reasonably well against Armagh in the semi. So I was kind of saying to myself well I'm not going to change anything now! The county board and Sean were under pressure from the CCC that all players had to be in uniform, and I agree with that. There was a fine issued for the first game, and it was doubled and then doubled again. Sean just said to me 'let's just wear the normal jersey.' I said 'Sean I will' and then I kind of went back on it then and stuck on the lucky jersey.
"It was the wrong thing to do, a man of Sean's...I had given him my word like and then went back on it. I'd say he was a bit disappointed in me for doing it. I probably should have left it after the first or second time"
Only the best players can get away with something like that🤣
And Giles was one of the best pic.twitter.com/58xBxedQgr
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) April 14, 2020
But while known for the sleeveless jersey craze, Giles will be remembered for the grace, poise and style with which he lit up Gaelic football fields all over during the course of a remarkable 11 year career. A man often credited with kick-starting the diagonal pass, Giles was also tremendous in the air and brilliant to win the breaking ball.
"People call it the dirty ball or whatever as if it's a very difficult or brave thing to do. It's not at all like. You just try to get in there and out quickly, and get your hands on it," he says modestly.
As a club-mate in Skryne, Colm O'Rourke is well placed to talk about Giles' gifts and he talks about his influence on the club as a 17-year-old, his legacy as one of the greatest Gaelic footballers ever.
"He was small in primary school and secondary school. He was one of the smallest on the secondary school in St Pat's," says O'Rourke.
"Then by the time he was seventeen, he helped us in Skryne to win our first county championship and we wouldn't have won it without him."
"I always thought his best performances for Skryne were from centre back with how he could control a game with his diagonal passes."
"It was nice to be on with one of the best footballers I've ever played with..."
You can listen to the Trevor Giles tribute show here.