GAA Football

Kerry selector Tommy Griffin impressed by minor final opponents Derry

Derry manager Damian McErlain and assistant Killian Conlon on the line against Sligo during the All Ireland Minor Football Championship quarter final match at Ballybofey. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Jason O'Connor

TOMMY Griffin won five All-Ireland senior medals playing with the Kingdom.

Since he switched to the sidelines, the Dingle native has been involved in two Hogan Cups wins for Pobalscoil Corcha Dhuibhne and last year’s third consecutive All-Ireland minor success with Kerry.

Griffin has encountered Derry  opposition before.

The Kingdom minors dispatched their Oak Leaf counterparts last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final and Griffin was also involved alongside Eamonn Fitzmaurice in Pobalscoil Corcha Dhuibhne’s Hogan Cup final win over St Patrick’s, Maghera in Croke Park in 2014.

He sees regular meetings between the counties at inter-county and schools’ level as a good sign of the work the Oak Leaf county are doing at underage level.

“Damian McErlain has done a great job with their minors over the last few years in getting them to the business end nearly all the time,” said Griffin

“The most impressive thing for me about the win over Dublin in the semi-final was the fact they came from two points down at half-time facing into Hill 16 with the Dublin supporters filing in for the senior game and still managed to win.

“It takes a lot to win in a situation like that and we have massive respect for them and the challenge they will bring.

“We know that we will have to be at our best to perform.”

There’s a strong debate in Kerry about why some of the players from the recent Tommy Markham Cup trilogy haven’t been given a more purposeful chance at the highest level yet.

But the experienced Griffin says it’s a transition that doesn’t happen as quickly as some might expect.

“Managements generally tend to know when the best time is to blood a player at senior level,’’ the Kerry selector said.

“I think people are over-hyping the minor success in terms of having an instant impact on senior level.

“The rungs on the ladder that are there between minor and U21 are there for a reason and while winning All-Irelands at minor level is a great accomplishment, there is still night and day between both the standard of minor and senior level.

“No minor has ever won a senior All-Ireland for a county is the best way it can be put and remember a lot of these guys are still to play senior football at club level.”

At the outset, Kerry looked like having another strong tilt at Minor level again even though only four of last year’s final starters – David Clifford, Diarmuid O’Connor, Michael Potts and Brian Friel – were available again for 2017.

Griffin says that experience isn’t necessarily everything in being successful at minor level.

“The first question that a lot of people ask of an underage GAA team is ‘how many have you from last year’ and judgements are often made from there.

“That isn’t always the greatest thing to judge a side on because new players in a set-up can improve things from the freshness and energy they bring, in wanting to establish themselves on the team.

“The new players this year have contributed and have led from the front and it’s good to see a lot of the players who were on the extended panel last year making the step up this year so well.”

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