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Tommy says Cluxton is key

Former Kerry player Tommy Griffin says Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs must be targeted again if the Kingdom are to pull off another surprise Croke Park win over Dublin.

In 2009, Jack O’Connor’s side defied the odds to win by 17 points. It was a game in which Pat Gilroy claimed his players performed like "startled earwigs". It was also an affair in which Kerry put a great emphasis on negating the Dublin goalkeeper’s restarts.

Griffin, who played at full-back that day, knows upsetting Cluxton’s restarts can give Kerry just the platform they need to reach the final.

"It’s such a weapon in their armoury," said the five-time All-Ireland winner. "He has varied his kick-outs a lot since. He’s not going to the same pocket at right-half back as much as he used to.

"He was making hay there for years and nobody was cottoning on to it. He’s brought an awful lot more extras into his game. You saw the half-forward line coming up against Cork the last day and he was picking them out in the middle.
"He uses each side and the centre. He won’t put up balls up for grabs and that’s why he’s the benchmark for all county goalkeepers. Every Dublin attack nearly starts with him.

Griffin refers to Cluxton’s free and 45-taking, which have seen him score 13 points in his last three games.

"Kerry, if there are to have any hope, have to be vigilant about their discipline from anywhere around the 45 metre line and beyond. You can say about 90% of the time it’s going to be a score for him. A pull of a jersey out by the sideline or a push in the back or a lazy foul... them things, I’m sure Eamonn has the lads briefed because they will be punished."

Griffin is also concerned about the explosive speed of Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy but doesn’t believe the Dublin defence has been given a true examination yet.

"The pace of the half-back line is frightening. It’s pace we’ve probably never seen before, a lightning pace. It brings a new dimension to the game and I think that’s the way a lot of teams are going to be set up from now on, that attacking from the back.

"A lot of teams with that kind of flair, a lot of the time they’re compensating for something else and that’s where Kerry have to hit them the next day: putting these outstanding footballers going forward on their heels and testing them at the back.

"See how good they are going backwards and holding their line. They have shown a small bit of vulnerability in the full-back line but they’ll be out to rectify that the next day.

"There are weaknesses in both defences. Kerry haven’t been outstanding in the back, they were a bit sloppy with the frees they gave away the last day and they were opened up a few times.

"But they’ve had a month to look at that and we might see a different Kerry the next day but at the same time we may see a different Dublin defence."

Griffin’s business partner in Muiris Dans pub, Pádraic Corcoran, is a Dubliner but is part of the Kerry set-up as a strength and conditioning expert assisting Cian O’Neill.

The pair haven’t spoken much about the inner-workings of the panel, Griffin happy that Kerry are coming into the semi-final flying low under the radar. Their quarter-final win over Cavan was the less convincing of all four games but he is assured they will glean a lot from it.

"If they had won the game by 15 or 20 points it wasn’t going to do them any good. They got more value out of the quarter-finals than the other teams did. They blooded new players, had players coming back from injury, set themselves up differently and tried new things.

"People were coming saying it was a poor performance but when you sit back and take a proper look at it you would have to say they’re happy. We’ve seen what they’re capable of for 35 minutes against Cork. I’d be hopeful we might see something similar against Dublin for a longer period."

* The second perpetual Tommy Griffin Over-35s Tournament in aid of Pobalscoil Chroca Dhuibhne’s new pitch and running track will be held in Dingle on Saturday, September 14. Fourteen teams will converge on west Kerry including the Seamus Moynihan-led St Brendan’s College selection and a Shane Curran-captained St Brigid’s, Roscommon selection. The tournament is 13-a-side with each game last 20 minutes in duration.

For more information email muirisdans@gmail.com or visit www.muirisdansdingle.com/tournament