Patrick Gerard Spillane, retired Gaelic footballer and current sports broadcaster better known as Pat Spillane, is born in Templenoe, County Kerry, on December 1, 1955. His league and championship career with the Kerry GAA senior team spans seventeen years from 1974 to 1991. Spillane is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Spillane is born into a strong Gaelic football family. His father, Tom, and his uncle, Jerome, both play with Kerry and win All-Ireland Junior Football Championship medals. His maternal uncles, Jackie, Dinny, Mickey, and Teddy Lyne, all win All-Ireland medals at various grades with Kerry throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Spillane plays competitive Gaelic football as a boarder at St. Brendan’s College. Here he wins back-to-back Corn Uí Mhuirí medals, however, an All-Ireland medal remains elusive. He first appears for the Templenoe GAA club at underage levels, before winning a county novice championship medal in 1973. With the amalgamated Kenmare District team he wins two Kerry Senior Football Championship medals in 1974 and 1987. While studying at Thomond College he wins an All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship medal in the club championship in 1978. He also wins one Munster Senior Club Football Championship medal and a Limerick Senior Football Championship medal.
Spillane makes his debut on the inter-county scene at the age of sixteen when he is picked on the Kerry minor team. He enjoys two championship seasons with the minor team, however, he is a Munster Minor Football Championship runner-up on both occasions. He subsequently joins the Kerry under-21 team, winning back-to-back All-Ireland Under-21 Football Championship medals in 1975 and 1976. By this stage he has also joined the Kerry senior team, making his debut during the 1973-74 league. Over the course of the next seventeen years, he wins eight All-Ireland Senior Football Championship medals, beginning with a lone triumph in 1975, a record-equalling four championships in-a-row from 1978 to 1981 and three championships in-a-row from 1984 to 1986. He also wins twelve Munster medals, two National Football League medals and is named Footballer of the Year in 1978 and 1986. He plays his last game for Kerry in August 1991. He is joined on the Kerry team by his two brothers, Mick and Tom, and together win a total of 19 All-Ireland medals, a record for a set of brothers.
After being chosen on the Munster GAA inter-provincial team for the first time in 1976, Spillane is an automatic choice on the starting fifteen for the following six years. During that time he wins four Railway Cup medals.
In retirement from playing Spillane combines his teaching career with a new position as a sports broadcaster. His media career begins with RTÉ in 1992, where he starts as a co-commentator before progressing to the role of studio analyst with the flagship programme The Sunday Game. He also enjoys a four-year tenure as host of the evening highlights edition of the programme. He also writes a weekly column for the Sunday World.
Even during his playing days Spillane comes to be recognised as one of the greatest players of all time. After fighting his way back from a potentially career-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury, he is named in the right wing-forward position on the Football Team of the Century in 1984. He is one of only two players from the modern era to be named on that team. He switches to the left-wing forward position when he is named on the Football Team of the Millennium in 1999. His collection of nine GAA GPA All Stars Awards is a record for a Gaelic footballer, while his tally of eight All-Ireland medals is also a record which he shares with fellow Kerry players Páidí Ó Sé, Mikey Sheehy, Denis “Ógie” Moran and Ger Power.