You've got to be multi-skilled to be a specialist No 3 - Griffin
Published 08/06/2016 | 02:30
You have to go back to the last century to unearth a Kerry full-back who could be classed as 'natural' in the position.
Since Páidí Ó Sé gave the responsibility to Seamus Moynihan for the 2000 Championship, the game's most successful county have been mixing and matching in the gatekeeping role.
Mike McCarthy and Tom O'Sullivan have had spells there despite perhaps being more comfortable in the corners; Marc Ó Sé might fall into that category too. Aidan O'Mahony's best years for Kerry were at half-back but all have had to adapt.
Mark Griffin might just qualify for 'natural' status, however. A regular fixture there during the League, he hasn't known much else for club or county.
"I was always a full-back. Even underage, for my club, my school, and underage with the county," he recalled. "And in college. I have played centre-back quite an amount for my club, I can play out there, but predominantly I would be a full-back."
That said, he's not sure if the perception of a 'natural' full-back applies any more, with such a multi-tasking element to it now, he feels.
"The way the game has moved on now, if you're playing full-back, you actually have to be able to do quite a number of things. You may have to mark a big full-forward. You have to be physically able to mark a Michael Murphy or a Sean Cavanagh," said Griffin, who works as a wind farm engineer.
"But they'll drift out the field and you have to be able to be useful out the field. You have to be able to get on ball and play as a half-back.
"Or alternatively, you could be on a corner-forward and they only play a two-man full-forward line.
"So it's quite a difficult position these days to nail down. If all you're capable of doing is being inside there to mark a big man, there's a good chance you won't be on the team a lot of the days.
"Before, I probably was a bit conservative in my play. But over the last couple of years, training with Kerry, my football has developed and I've learned things off players around me.
"That's something I identified last year. I had to be more flexible and had to be able to perform well in all positions in the backline. Against Cork this year I ended up at wing-back. I haven't trained there or played there before, but it was something I had to fall into and I thought it went pretty well."
Griffin played full-back in the classic 2013 All-Ireland semi-final with Dublin but lost his place in 2014, when he made just two appearances as a substitute and then missed out on the match-day squad for most of last year's Championship.
It rankled but he vowed to take a different perspective in 2016.
"It was disappointing. My form wasn't where it needed to be. Aidan O'Mahony was playing exceptional football. So it was very hard to displace him, with the experience he has.
"If you're not starting a game, it can be quite difficult to include you in the match-day squad, because you're taking a chance on a squad position that you could be giving to a more dynamic player, that's going to come on more regularly.
"One thing that I felt going into this year was to enjoy every moment of it. And it has helped me perform a lot better, in every game. I feel a bit more in command in that full-back berth. A lot of responsibility comes with that jersey. And this year it has just come more naturally, I suppose."
Does he feel he has finally earned the trust of the management?
"I wouldn't say trust. Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) is very fair. You're based on your form. We have an extremely talented squad, so you have to consistently perform, because the team that's playing the best in training, you see it our teams change quite an amount from game to game."
Taken off in the league final against Dublin, the St Michael's-Foilmore man sees the dominance of the All-Ireland champions as a challenge Kerry simply have to respond to.
"They're setting the standard for the other counties to meet. There's no pressure involved. It's great for football really that they are raising the bar."
The criticism of Kerry, and especially the older players in their defence was "unfair", he feels.
"Some of the people that have these criticisms aren't looking at the game.. I don't think they have the knowledge that some people would have.
"Marc was 'home alone' on Bernard Brogan, who's arguably the best forward in the country. I think he kicked four points from play, but there was an awful lot of space in front of Marc. And I thought he did quite well.
"But if you give that much space and there's no pressure on the ball coming in, they are going to cause damage.
"People should take a step back and look at the overall picture and analyse it before making these criticism, because no matter who was inside there, it would have been very difficult."