AIB All-Ireland Club IFC Final: Ardfert (Kerry) 1-14 St Croan’s (Roscommon) 0-9: David Griffin recalls sitting in the Hogan Stand as a 13-year old boy, a proud spectator as Ardfert’s claimed the All-Ireland Club intermediate title in 2007.
Fast forward to the present and Griffin, now all grown up, was clasping the same piece of silverware his team-mates Mike Moloney, John Egan and Damien Wallace held aloft eight-years earlier.
Clutching his man of the match award, David Griffin enjoyed a very different view on Saturday evening.
“I never thought I’d be here as a player. I thought 2006 and 2007 were the good days and that was it as far as the good days were concerned, the best was behind us,” he said.
“I’m struggling to put this into words. I was here the last time as a fan. I was sitting up there and it was unbelievable. I was 13 then, I’m 21 now and it is twice as good as a player.
“To be in Croke Park, to be celebrating another All-Ireland Club final win is incredible. To stand on this pitch, looking out at our 16th man in the stand is something I’ll always cherish.”
Ahead 0-3 to 0-2 after 20 minutes, Griffin engineered the key score of the contest. Collecting Darren Wallace’s delivery, the right half-forward danced past the challenges of St Croan’s Keith Keenan, Robbie Keenan and Eamon Towey before striking low to the bottom right corner of Vincent Egan’s goal. That green flag would light the fuse on an enterprising 10-minute burst for the winners.
Damien Wallace twice split the posts in the ensuing passages and the interval gap stretched to six points, 1-6 to 0-3, when Griffin punched Darren Wallace’s effort over the bar deep in first-half stoppages.
“When I got the ball there was still a bit of work to do out in the corner, but they are the ones you practice in training. They are very nice when they come off,” continued Griffin. We racked up a good score in the first-half. It was only six points at the break and we knew they would come at us in the second-half. They did come at us but we had the experience. Of our six backs, four of them were here before. Experience got us over the line.”
Connacht champions Croan’s roared into proceedings, talisman Kevin Smyth finding the target after 11 seconds. Smyth added a second on seven minutes, but their early momentum dissipated in the wake of referee Seán Hurson’s decision not to award Shane Smyth a penalty — the corner-forward tripped by the trailing leg of Ardfert ’keeper Nicholas O’Sullivan. Possession broke to James Connaughton, his goal drive blocked by Ardfert half-forward Fionán Horgan. A 26-minute barren spell followed for the Roscommon outfit and a positive opening to the second-period was critical if they were to revive their fading All-Ireland dream. It never arrived.
Ardfert, wholly comfortable in their surroundings, continued to move the ball at pace, their front six causing endless problems for the opposition rearguard. Griffin, John Egan and David Wallace swelled their advantage and this result was signed, sealed and delivered entering the final quarter. Defender Maurice Connaughton was only the second St Croan’s player to make it onto the scoresheet when converting a 44th minute free.
David Casey’s troops were frantic in their search for a goal, O’Sullivan denying Daniel Malone and substitute Cathal Connelly shooting inches wide of the left post.
Not even a late red card to captain Jerry Wallace could upset the Ardfert celebrations, Griffin and a huge John Egan kick rubber-stamping All-Ireland football title number three.
Scorers for Ardfert: DamienWallace (0-6, 0-3 frees); D Griffin (1-3); J Egan (0-3); Darren Wallace, Trevor Wallace (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Croan’s: K Smyth (0-6, 0-5 frees); M Connaughton (0-2, 0-1 ’45); B Mullins (0-1).
ARDFERT: N O’Sullivan; D Dineen, R Horgan, M Moloney; T Wallace, D Collins, S Leen; J Dowling, K Shanahan; D Griffin, Darren Wallace, F Horgan; S Griffin, Damien Wallace, J Egan.
Subs: J Wallace for Dowling (19), B Barrett for Collins (29, inj), M Ferris for Darren Wallace (50), N Clifford for F Horgan (56), E Corridon for S Griffin (61).
ST CROAN’S: V Egan; G Mockler, G Grogan, K Keenan; D Malone, E Towey, M Connaughton; R Timothy, A Brogan; K Smyth, J Connaughton, K Muldoon; R Keenan, M Holland, S Smyth.
Subs: B Mullin for Brogan (22), P Leech for Muldoon (28), M Towey for Mockler (HT), C Connelly for R Keenan (38), T Egan for Timothy (61).
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved