Sunday 18 February 2018

Former Kerry hero Griffin unimpressed by mania of 'the rematch'

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

MANY unheralded inter-county servants who called it a day last winter will have mixed feelings when the Allianz Leagues resume over the next 48 hours, including Kerry footballer Tommy Griffin.

Tonight is the first time in 12 years he'll be sitting out a big Kerry game. Eh, not exactly, he points out.

He may have won five senior All-Irelands, but the recently retired Dingle man is much too modest not to offer a clarification.

"It's not actually 12 years because I got released after the Meath debacle (semi-final) in 2002 and didn't make it back until the famous Tyrone game in 2003," he explains helpfully, recalling how he lined out for the county juniors during that hiatus.

Once he re-established himself, Griffin proved a most versatile, unsung sort of Kerry hero.

He won All-Irelands at midfield and full-back in '06 and '09, respectively, but was prepared to slot in wherever asked, including half-back.

"You'd think wing-back was great until you got a hosing from some young fella!" he laughs.

On his retirement a few months back, he seemed emblematic of the type of quiet, selfless player that many counties don't really appreciate until they're gone.


Griffin reddens at the notion, throws in a few 'yerras' and quickly changes the subject to tonight's big All-Ireland final rematch against the Dubs, which he will watch from afar.

"The whole Kerry/Dublin rivalry is definitely a huge attraction but it's still only a league game," he notes.

"I don't think taking two points off the Dubs in early February will be retribution for last September -- it's hardly going to be a season-defining game for either team.

"But for Kerry the good thing is the chance for some of the younger lads to get a feel for Croke Park," he adds, tipping three of tonight's starting defenders -- Shane Enright (Tarbert), Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers) and Brian Maguire (Listowel) -- as "great lads who are going to be around for a long time".

"I don't know that I'll be the greatest supporter," Griffin admits.

"I'll probably find it hard to watch games, but if the lads are playing in Tralee or close by I'll definitely go along.

"They say Kerry people don't travel for matches but there seems to be a great crowd going up this weekend and I suppose the rugby game tomorrow is playing a part too."

Griffin insists his decision to quit, at 33, was not difficult.

The week before last year's NFL throw-in he suffered a desperately frustrating injury.

Tendons connect muscles to bones so if you tear one you literally pull it off the bone.

Hamstrings are the most notoriously temperamental muscles that athletes have to manage and he split the tendon on top of his hamstring.

Most of last year's NFL was spent rehabbing but by summer he had battled back into the sharktank, fighting it out in those famously competitive internal training matches at Fota Island for just a slot on the match-day panel.

"I thought I might have got a gallop for the quarter-finals, I felt I was going well at that stage but I finally got back into the panel for the semi-final (against Mayo)."

He never got a run, though, and after such a gruelling fitness battle, and with a residual ankle problem that is going to need a third operation soon, he called 'time' himself.

Senior club football with the local 2010 county semi-finalists, and the day job -- co-owner of Muiris Dan's pub in central Dingle -- will keep him busy and immersed in the game.

His business partner Padraic Corcoran is the grandson of the original Muiris Dan and they took it over in 2004 from Padraic's uncle Bernard O'Sullivan, himself an All-Ireland winner in 1981. Sporting memorabilia and occasions, especially GAA, form a strong part of the pub's identity and, after converting upstairs last summer, it is also a hostel.

On one wall, side by side, are framed Kerry and Dublin jerseys, but you just know there'll never be any shrine to the boss anywhere -- just the way Griffin always liked it.

Irish Independent

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