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Tommy Griffin: Kerry defeat in 2009 was a wake-up call for Dubs


Jim Gavin

Jim Gavin

Jim Gavin

YOU could call it Year Zero. August Bank Holiday Monday, 2009: the day an expectant Dublin welcomed a form-ravaged Kerry into their Croke Park citadel … and endured their greatest humiliation in recent memory.

Kerry 1-24 Dublin 1-7.

The end of the Sky Blue world? Not so. Rather, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, you could call it their rock bottom watershed on the road back to respect, redemption and ultimate glory.

Since then, Dublin have won two All-Ireland SFC titles, the first ending a 16-year famine. In each of those coronation years, they conquered Sam by subjugating Kerry: in a nerve-shredding one-point final (2011) and after a semi-final classic (2013).


Here's another killer stat: since the 2009 quarter-final demolition, Dublin's "started earwigs" (copyright Pat Gilroy) have transformed into steely-eyed assassins in Kerry's company. Between league and championship, they have faced each other seven times; the record reads six wins for Dublin, just one for Kerry.

"I think the day in '09 really was a wake-up call for that Dublin team," suggests Tommy Griffin who, as Kerry's full-back sentry, had one of his least taxing days ever in green-and-gold.

"A lot of things changed for Dublin after that - they must have had some serious head-to-heads," he expands.

"You can see in the success they've had ... nearly every year they've competed at the latter stages since then. There's been no more capitulations by Dublin really. Not major ones anyway."

This Sunday marks the latest re-enactment of a fabled rivalry. Both sides have garnered two points from two games as the Allianz League emerges from February hibernation: a frenetic March beckons, all starting with the All-Ireland favourites travelling into the Killarney lair of the All-Ireland holders.

Currently, Kerry have the prize that matters but Dublin retain the bragging rights. It wasn't always thus: for years, you got a sense that our cute-hoor friends from the Kingdom were hamming up the nostalgia-fest, happy in the knowledge that Dublin weren't rivals to be feared; that Kerry (when it mattered) would invariably win.

The balance has tilted, post-'09. It's not that Dublin have bludgeoned their old nemesis - they did so only once, by ten points in Killarney - but that was at the fraught spring outset of Éamonn Fitzmaurice's reign.

What arguably makes it more galling for Kerry is that Dublin have perfected the knack of winning tight games against them. Three of those victories were by a single point, most memorably in the All-Ireland comeback charge of 2011. One was by two points - at the start of the 2010 league, when Gilroy unveiled his new, more defensively-minded Dubs and they claimed a first win on Kerry soil since November 1982.


Even the "emphatic" seven points separating Dublin from Kerry in that 2013 semi-final merely proves the occasional falacy of stats. Kerry's sole win in this period was by a six-point margin in 2012, but that comes with a caveat: it was the start of an erratic league for a Dublin team struggling to emerge from the haze of back-slapping All-Ireland celebration.

Griffin was a non-playing sub for the 2011 All-Ireland final, after a campaign bedevilled by injuries, and retired the following January at the age of 33. Three years on, he is adamant that the Dublin/Kerry tradition will always live on and has actually been strengthened by Dublin's recent renaissance, adding: "It's the game everyone wants to play in".

Yet, by the same token, the Dingle man doesn't believe any current Kerry players will head to Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday, their heads wrecked by thoughts of Dublin's recent dominance in this fixture.

"Say there's a new fella starting - he doesn't give a damn if Kerry lost the last 20 games against Dublin. All he wants to do is get his jersey, make his mark, put in a good performance and try and get on for the next day," says Griffin.

Harking back to 2009, he says: "It was the perfect day really, but I think perfect days don't come around too often." He then speculates that this was the day that "turned things around" for the losers; while Kerry kicked on and won an All-Ireland, "the Dubs probably got more out of it than Kerry.

"We won just the game and that was it, we got to a semi-final. But I think the Dubs learned way more from that game. I mean, the only thing we learned from that day was Mike McCarthy could throw an odd ball and could header a ball and could solo it, wasn't it?"


I think the day in '09 really was a wake-up call for that

Dublin team