Kevin Dyas was one of the most promising young talents during the golden years of Armagh football. He captained his county to an Ulster minor title in 2005, while helping Abbey CBS to MacRory Cup and Hogan Cup glory the following year.
The Dromintee clubman spent the following years practising his trade down under before injuries forced Dyas to return to Armagh and Gaelic Football.
From man-marking defender to play-making centre half forward, Dyas played almost every position on the field for Armagh. His best year undoubtedly came in 2014 when he picked up an Irish News Ulster All-Star award.
We look back on an up and down career that ended all too early, but had many highlights throughout.
You made your Armagh Senior debut against Derry in a round one qualifier in 2007, what do you remember from the game?
I remember I came on, Ciaran McKeever got injured and I wasn’t really expecting to come on, as most players don’t as early on. I came on at half time for him. I was playing left or right half back and there were a couple of breaks in play, one play was, Geezer had a kick pass out of defence. I was free up the wing and I think he ended up kicking it over the sideline. I was probably going under the radar because I was only on and I was free again, I think McGrane might have had it and again I didn’t get the ball. The first time I did get the ball I was coming up to the 45 and probably didn’t have as good composure then and I took a shot on. Oisin McConville was coming round on the loop and I didn’t realise at the time, and he gave me a barrel full of abuse for it, so they were my three memories.
How did you enjoy your time in Australia for the few years after that?
My time there didn’t work out as planned. Initially it was great, I went over for my first season and did pre-season and was feeling good and feeling strong. I was getting integrated with the rest of the team and getting involved into the new culture. I think I played three of four games for the reserves and in my fourth or fifth game I tore my hamstring off the bone, and that was the beginning of the end for my time there. The rest of that first season I was obviously out with injury. The second season I tried to get back too quickly and I ended up hurting it again. That happened a couple of times and eventually I decided to come back after the second year. It was a good experience, I was young and learned a lot about myself but unfortunately it just didn’t work out.
Following on from Armagh’s All-Ireland winning u21 side in 2004, the Ulster winning minor team from 2005 and the All-Ireland minors in 2009, it must have been an exciting time to be involved with Armagh?
Yeah it was. I remember coming back and Paddy (O’Rourke) had taken over, from a personal point of view, it was exciting coming back, but at the same time I was still struggling from my hamstring. There was plenty of potential in the panel, there were good young lads there, a new manager in, so everything kind of felt new and fresh. Coming back in, there was definitely plenty of enthusiasm leading into that year, 2010.
You transferred to Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin a few years after, how did that come about?
When I came back from Australia I was studying in UCD for three years and then I came out of College and started working in Dublin as well. I was living down in Dublin for maybe five or six years before I moved to Kilmacud. Essentially, the travel up and down to the club training was proving difficult. I was also struggling at that stage, I’d just got my knee injury and a lot of my physio work, I was travelling up and down the road for that too. Basically I was living in Dublin and between my job, which involves a lot of hours, travelling up and down from Armagh just wasn’t feasible anymore.
What was your favourite position?
Definitely I enjoyed playing centre half forward more than anywhere. I did well at underage, I was a very versatile player at underage and that was good for me at the start when I came in to play for Armagh. It always gave me a good chance in playing, be it half back, half forward, corner back sometimes, it always gave me an opportunity to play. At the same time it didn’t give me a chance to get very good at one position, I was decent at multiple positions but I wasn’t very good at any. Then I decided to give centre half forward a go, I wish I had of done it earlier but I definitely enjoyed it more, probably because I just focused on it more.
Best memory in an Armagh jersey?
From a game, I enjoyed the games where we beat Down because of the rivalry, so maybe the Championship games against Down, that we won would probably be the best memory (of a game). My best memories involved with Armagh would probably be more so around training than games, the only memories that really stand out to me anymore are those hard sessions that you used to go through with your teammates as opposed to moments in matches.
Do you miss those training sessions now you have retired?
I thought I would miss it a lot more to be honest. I keep myself pretty occupied outside of football. I definitely miss the fun element of training in terms of summer, where you’re preparing for games and in a weird way I miss those tough sessions in pre-season, where you knew you had a long, hard slog ahead of you. I definitely don’t miss the amount of rehab I used to do that’s for sure.
Are you still involved in football?
I’m not long finished really. I think my last game playing for Armagh was 2015 but foolishly enough, I tried to continue on longer than I should have and only stopped trying to get back in 2018. Then I played for a year with Kilmacud, so I’m only really a year away from the game and I’ve just completely separated from it. I’m concentrating more on work which got neglected a little bit when I was trying to get back from injury, so I’m putting more time into that. At the minute I’m not involved in it at all.
Do you intend to get back involved, perhaps in a coaching role?
I haven’t thought too much about it to be honest. Who knows, it all depends on my own circumstances with work and where I’m based makes it difficult, I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. I enjoyed the coaching element as a player, I enjoyed getting coached and passing on any bits that I could to other players. I wouldn’t rule it out, it’s definitely something that would interest me but not within the next year or two.
Who was the best player you played with?
I’d say Ciaran McKeever. I played with some great players obviously, some of the best players Armagh ever had but it was near the tail-end of their careers. I played with Stevie obviously, one year with Geezer, played for a couple of early years with Oisin, who were all unbelievable players. I guess the player, from the duration of the time I played for Armagh, would probably be Ciaran. He took a lot of abuse for being overly aggressive and a lack of discipline, but his skills were second to none. His leadership was second to none, he could tackle, he could pass, he could shoot, he could catch over his head, he had all the skills.