GAA Football

Niall Grimley reflects on whirlwind year after Ireland appearance

Ireland’s Niall Grimley jumps for the ball with Australian pair Ben Brown and Luke Shuey during Saturday’s second International Rules Test in Perth Picture by Inpho
From Cahair O'Kane at Domain Stadium

FROM the disappointment of not starting Armagh’s championship derby with Down to playing for Ireland six months later, safe to say this year’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Niall Grimley.

In the bowels of the Subiaco Oval, it’s a subdued changing room as the Irish players filter through, although it never quite touches the trough of a championship defeat.

Grimley emerges suited, though not quite booted as he stands chatting with his shoes in his hand, trying to take it all in.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing. The third quarter they caught a few extra balls that killed us. Our kick passing maybe slightly let us down. It wouldn’t have taken much to win that game.

“If you get a point or two, the confidence is flowing and everything’s going your way. But it seemed the third and fourth quarter it went against us, a couple of decisions didn’t go our way as well.

And yet for a 23-year-old that was called up when last minute vacancies appeared after Conor McKenna got injured and Paul Kerrigan became club-tied, it would be unnatural to be devastated.

In front of his parents, his two brothers and his girlfriend, the Madden man has had the experience of a lifetime. It’s not even so much playing against professionals as it is playing with the best his own sport has to offer under an Armagh legend.

“It’s top class. When Joe won the All-Ireland with Armagh, I was only a wee fella looking up to him. He was God to me, all those Armagh boys were God to me. Now he’s managing me, it’s a wee bit surreal.

“It’s maybe only when I go home and think about it that it’ll hit me and I’ll go ‘holy s***, that’s one of the greatest managers of all time’. It’s great to be here. We’re disappointed that we left it out on the field, we missed it.

“Obviously I only found out late I was going. It’s a huge thing for me representing my club, never mind county and now Ireland. I was a bit shell-shocked.

“When Joe gave me the call, I was absolutely delighted. The two weeks, the amount of things I’ve learnt and done that I never would have thought I’d done in my lifetime.

“You never know, next year or the year after I can maybe go on to play for Ireland again and do myself a bit of justice.”

He was one of the bug-hit contingent ahead of the first test, admitting that he hadn’t been feeling 100 per cent in Adelaide, even though he was able to play some part.

“I got more game time today. The first test, I was struggling with a bit of sickness, I wasn’t just 100 per cent. Today I got a bit more time, I would have liked to have been on the ball a bit more and got a few scores.”

The Ireland squad don’t fly home until tomorrow after taking a few days to relax after a busy two weeks, but when they do, Grimley is determined to help Armagh kick on.

He made a late cameo against Down before going on to become one of the standout midfielders of the championship summer, his free-taking helping secure memorable wins over Tipperary and Kildare to help his county to the last eight.

“It was a good summer but I would like to progress more. There’s no reason why Armagh can’t be competing at the semi-final stage.

“We didn’t do ourselves justice against Tyrone, it wasn’t a true reflection of how we’d played all season. I think we maybe played 6 games in 7 or 8 weeks – I’m not using that as an excuse but we feel we didn’t do ourselves justice and I’m looking forward to getting back into Armagh.

“I’ll maybe take a week or two’s rest and then it’ll be back into McKenna Cup.”

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