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The man is gone, but the legend will live on

November 1st, 2022 5:00 PM

By Tom Lyons

The man is gone, but the legend will live on Image
Padraigh Griffin in full flight. (Photo: Garry Minihane).

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Tom Lyons remembers Padraigh Griffin – one of the greatest footballers to ever grace the Cork club scene

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WHEN legends die, we are all poorer for their passing. Some die in old age and their deeds might be hard to recall but some die far too young, their exploits still as fresh as if they happened yesterday.

The town of Clonakilty was stunned and plunged into mourning by the sudden death at far too young an age of one of its greatest ever footballers, Padraigh Griffin.

Football is a religion in Clonakilty, a town that has produced some of Cork’s most famous players down the years.

Standing proudly, shoulder to shoulder with those Clonakilty greats was Padraigh Griffin.

Maybe not quite shoulder to shoulder with 6ft plus Clon greats like Tadhgo Crowley and Tim F. Hayes. Griffin hovered around 5ft 8ins and sometimes looked like a schoolboy on the pitch.

It didn’t stop him from forging a remarkable career in red and green and becoming not only one of Clonakilty’s greatest footballing heroes but also one of its most likeable.

Padraigh Griffin in action for Clonakilty in the 2009 county final against St Finbarr's. (Photo: George Hatchell).

We arrived in Clonakilty in 1976, the year after Padraigh was born, and being involved in the Clon underage club, we were fortunate to witness every step of his football career from U10 to senior county-winning hero.

With Kilkenny blood from his mother’s side and Kerry blood from his father’s side in his veins, the early question was would he take to football or hurling?

The answer was provided when his father Pat, one of Kerry’s greatest forwards in the era of Mick O’Connell and Mick O’Dwyer, took charge of the U12 football team and Padraigh became the lynchpin of the side.

His dazzling ball skills were obvious even then. A lovely sidestep that was natural, not taught, and he mesmerised opposition defences.

It broke Pat’s heart that they just couldn’t seem to get the better of the Bantry lads in those years but those Bantry lads grew up to win county U21, intermediate and senior titles. No mean opposition for young Griffin, who honed his skills on the challenge.

Griffin progressed up through the ranks, thrilling Clon supporters with his attacking prowess, his speciality being spectacular goals. He joined the senior team at a time in the 1990s when fortunes were at a very low ebb. Then out of the blue came 1996, his favourite GAA memory.

Unfancied Clon went on a gallop, Griffin in the corner producing the fireworks. Clon seemed down and out when captain Brian Murphy was sent off in the first half in Bandon during their semi-final win against the Barrs. A free by Eoin O’Mahony in the dying seconds fell just short with Clon a point in arrears. The Barrs’ defenders strangely prevented the ball from going wide and young Griffin gained possession.

His shot for a point was blocked down but the ball rebounded straight into his arms in front of goal.

Griffin lashed the ball to the net and it was sheer pandemonium when the final whistle sounded and Clon were through to the final on a 1-8 to 0-9 scoreline.

The impossible was taking place and the rest is history. Underdogs Clon went on to beat a star-studded UCC in the final to win their first title since 1952.
Griffin roasted a Kerry player named Séamus Moynihan that day. No small feat.

That year too, Griffin went on to captain the first Clonakilty team to win the SW U21 football championship.

The legend was growing.

Padraigh Griffin skips passed UCC's Seamus Moynihan during the 1996 county final. (Photo: George Hatchell).

 

Over the next dozen years Griffin developed into one of the most lethal forwards in Cork football, his skills and sidestep thrilling supporters, winning him an army of admiring fans.

Most teams laid special plans just to try to curtail him. The idea was that if you held Griffin scoreless, Clonakilty were beaten.

It rarely worked however. Even in the worst days, Clon supporters travelled just to watch him in action and there was a buzz every time he won possession.

Griffin only made sporadic appearances for Cork and thereby hangs a different tale of selectors who didn’t like his individual style or perhaps had some falling out with him.

At a time when Cork were crying out for scoring forwards, and Griffin was scoring goals for fun in club football, he was often ignored. In Kerry he would have been an automatic choice, like his father before him.

Cork football was definitely the loser in that argument.

Griffin won his second county medal as a veteran of the 2009 team that beat the Barr’s in the final.

With two young lads, Colm Calnan and Conor McManus, he formed a lethal full forward line that season that was unstoppable. By then his position among the greatest of Clonakilty footballers was copper-fastened and he was adored in the town.

His ready smile and cheeky style made him one of the most likeable characters you could ever hope to meet, on and off the pitch.

Since the news of Padraigh’s sad passing spread around West Cork, we have been amazed at the amount of sympathy that has poured in from outside clubs.

From those who played against him and those who watched him in action.

Their grief at the loss of a truly outstanding footballer, and a gentleman, was sincere and heartfelt.

To his wife Debbie, his sons Jack and Alex, his brother Mark, who soldiered with him on many a football field, and to the extended Griffin, Hurley and O’Donovan families we extend the true sympathy of all Gaels.

The man is gone, the legend will live on. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam chróga, dhílis.

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