JOHN MURPHY spoke to Noel Griffin about Kilbrittain’s county final win
ONE could have forgiven 39-year-old Kilrush native Noel Griffin, Kilbrittain’s player/manager, had he hummed a few notes of the ditty ‘From Clare to Here’ as he embarked on this year’s football campaign and training schedule with his junior B team colleagues.
Certainly the former Clare and Clonakilty senior footballer has been there, done that during the course of a 21-year football career to date, while clocking up the miles in his job as a financial services representative with a company based in Cork city and putting in the hard stints in training as he pursued ultimate football glory for his adopted clubs down the years .
But it was well worth the effort and wait in the end, as finally, after a frustrating start to 2016, everything fell into place, Kilbrittain footballers went from strength to strength as the season progressed capturing coveted West Cork and county inter-divisional B titles, while Noel’s class, vast experience and football prowess was rightly acknowledged as he won a place at full forward on the prestigious Carbery Junior Football All Stars team, beating off strong opposition in the process.
John Murphy (JM): Where did it all begin for you as a footballer?
Noel Griffin (NG): I was involved at junior football level in 1994/1995 with my own club Kilrush Shamrocks until 1996, when I first played at senior level. Then in 2005 I joined Clonakilty and played until 2010. The following year I joined Kilbrittain, so basically I have been involved in football action at different levels for over 20 years.
JM:In what was a remarkable year for both Kilbrittain footballers and yourself, there were naturally ups and downs, what sticks out in your mind as turning points?
NG: That game against Argideen Rangers in the county B championship quarter-final was a real turning point, we conceded very early scores and it turned out a bit of a disaster. We played poorly, did not have enough done and paid the penalty. It was a real wakeup call, but on the credit side a spur to greater effort, a silver lining as things turned out.
JM: Following that hiccup things began to slot into place, as together with your trio of selectors (Donal Desmond, Pádraig Leahy and Malachy Harrington) and the football panel you embarked on that successful West Cork campaign, while the fact that the intermediate hurlers had been defeated cleared the way for an uninterrupted run culminating in that easy victory over Bantry Blues in the final. Was the county campaign that followed against Clyda Rovers, Inniscarra and Cobh a step at a higher level?
NG: Not really, they were all tough matches, particularly the game against Clyda Rovers but when they got a man sent off just before the interval, it helped turn the tide in our direction and we finished well on the day. Overall, we felt that we had the ability to go all the way, the performance levels were vital and luckily we put them in as things progressed. We had a run of seven unbeaten games that instilled massive confidence in the team.
JM: The team’s fitness levels improved drastically during both championship campaigns, was it something you had focused on?
NG: Great credit must go to John Burke and Damien Desmond who were involved with the intermediate hurlers also. They put in a huge amount of work and we (footballers) finished very strongly in our matches, the players were in superb shape, a key component in our eventual successes.
JM:That final against Cobh, Kilbrittain were pushed all the way, but came good?
NG: it was our worst start to a match, but we had a purple 20-minute patch when we kicked six points on the bounce, that probably stood to use in that tight finish, we got our just rewards at the end.
JM:The two elder statesmen in the team, former Cork senior footballer star Owen Sexton and yourself, it must have been very satisfying to win that elusive county?
NG: You could see what it meant to Owen; he is very heavily involved at underage also and has given huge commitment to the club. Personally, I was delighted, but one must also pay tribute to our defence, they were wonderful throughout the year and played a major role, while in an overall context, the effort put in by the whole panel was wonderful, and Ross Cashman led by example as an outstanding captain, we had an ideal mix.
JM: Finally, what does 2017 hold for Kilbrittain, both in hurling and football?
NG: We were very near in the intermediate hurling championship in 2016. Both hurling and football teams hope to work in tandem in 2017, working between the underage and adult sections as well. We have some good players coming through the system, so the future is looking bright.