Playing a key role to Kingdom success

TOMMY GRIFFIN spends enough summer Sundays at the coalface of championship action that in his downtime he opts to steer away from Gaelic football.

Last weekend for his television viewing he had the option of keeping tabs on the progress of potential opponents like Meath’s Cian Ward and Sligo’s David Kelly, but the Dingle man chose instead to watch the images streaming live from Bloemfontein. The control exerted by Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller in enabling Germany to rip apart England’s challenge left an indelible impression on him.

“I don’t even know what’s going on in the rest of the country. Fellas were going on about last Sunday’s games but they had no great bearing on me. I saw the Dublin-Meath result but I’d no interest in it to be honest. I’m just be watching the World Cup these days and I really like the Germans. They are a good team full of solid guys. They do their job, they are methodical and clinical. I like that. It was no harm to see the result last Sunday either.”

Today Griffin will monitor the progress of Joachim Löw’s boys in Cape Town when they go toe to toe with Argentina, but this weekend his own sporting career requires a strong focus. Tomorrow afternoon in Killarney, Kerry welcome Limerick to town for the Munster final and despite the All-Ireland champions being installed as heavy favourites, Griffin is cautious about such talk. Last weekend’s GAA results informed him of how standards are levelling off around the country.

“If you ever needed a reminder that there was no bad team in the country, it was last weekend. None of the results really surprised me. Antrim, Sligo and Longford all had good weekends and they are three serious teams that we didn’t get much credit for beating last year. The last two years Limerick have been very impressive, and ask any of the Cork lads how they did last year. I think they have a serious man in charge of them and the hurling problems will definitely benefit them as they have strengthened the panel.”

Griffin will be charged with nullifying the threat of one of Limerick’s main men in freescoring attacker Ian Ryan. He’s growing accustomed to an increasing age gap between himself and his opponents, having marked 19 year-old Ciaran Sheehan during the battles with Cork last month, and regards it as further proof of the precarious and evolving nature of full-back play.

“If you’re getting a dusting and you’re on a fella 12 or 13 years younger than you, and he’s running around the field, it can be a fair lonely place.

“I don’t think I’ll ever call full back home but it has changed completely. How many teams in the country are playing three men in the full-forward line or half-forward line? Very few.

“It’s like the World Cup and the talk of 4-4-2, how that’s changed.

“If you’re exposed, you’re gone. It’s a collective thing now, and the backs as a unit. If a team concedes 1-10 it’s not about how much your man scored, it’s the six backs, two midfielders and goalkeeper who have conceded 1-10.

“I remember Seamus Moynihan marking Oisin McConville in 2000. Oisin scored 2-6, but Moynihan got man of the match.

“The days of keeping your man scoreless are gone.

“If you’re happy coming off the field with keeping your man to no score, well those days are gone.”

Griffin has had to cope with further change this year with the symbiotic relationship he enjoyed with fellow Dingle man and friend Diarmuid Murphy broken by the latter’s decision to shift off into retirement. He has nothing but praise for the new man in, Kilcummin’s Brendan Kealy.

“Brendan came in fresh and didn’t serve any apprenticeship on the bench. He has big boots to fill with Murph but he’s done very well. He’s a great lad to listen to guys. Even during the week we were doing a bit extra after training and hopefully he’ll continue that way.”

Tomorrow Kealy gets a chance to win his first Munster senior medal yet despite all the riches he has accumulated in his career, Griffin yearns for that accolade just as much.

“A Munster final is still a Munster final to us. We haven’t won a Munster since 2007 and some of the guys here have never won Munster medals.

“It’s a completely separate competition and this is our All-Ireland now.”


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