IT’S UNCHARTERED TERRITORY today for Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne. The West Kerry outfit, based in Dingle, play in the Croke Park for the first time in the school’s history.
The Hogan Cup final is the glamour occasion that draws them to make the eight-hour round trip to headquarters in Dublin this afternoon.
The PS Chorca Dhuibhne players may not be accustomed to stepping on to the Croke Park turf but they have men on the sideline that are acquainted with those blades of grass.
Manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has plenty experience from various roles with Kerry, as does his coaching sidekick Tommy Griffin from playing days with the Kingdom. Griffin celebrated five All-Ireland senior triumphs at Croke Park yet is relishing another chance to be involved at the stadium
“I didn’t think I’d be going back to Croke Park for anything other than sitting in the stand. So it’s brilliant to be involved. It’s a place where every young and old fella wants to be. It’s a great achievement for the school and a huge thing for the area.
“We’re drawing on three clubs – An Ghaeltacht, Dingle and Lispole – so it’s a special day for West Kerry football. The school only won it’s first Corn Ui Mhuiri two years ago and are now in a Hogan Cup final in Croke Park.”
Griffin recounts how he came to guiding this team.
“Eamonn has been with this particular side from the start in their first year in school and has been on about the talent of this gang for quite a while. He gave me a call in the summer of 2012 about getting involved with them.
“My own playing days were coming to an end and John Flannery – who I’m now helping with Dingle as he’s the club’s senior manager – had stepped down with Chorca Dhuibhne. Eamonn was taking over and wanted me to join him.
“It wasn’t something I was considering but I got involved and I get a really great kick out of it. You’re dealing with a great bunch of players, they’re very talented and they drive it on themselves.”
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
In his own school playing days Griffin experienced All-Ireland glory with Dingle CBS.
“We won the All-Ireland B in 1995 with Tomás Ó Sé and Aodhán MacGearailt also on that team. Liam Higgins was our manager and the driving force at the time. We’d some great players in the school like the Ó Sé’s and Dara Ó Cinnéide but didn’t feature in the A grade.”
That’s changed now with the current golden age. Last year, Griffin helped PS Chorca Dhuibhne retain their Corn Ui Mhuiri crown in Munster before the three-in-a-row was completed this year.
Losing the last two Hogan Cup semi-finals stirred up a well of regrets for their players but they surmounted that hurdle at the third attempt last month against St Gerald’s (Castlebar). Their final obstacle is St Pat’s (Maghera) today.
“We were very disappointed in last year’s semi-final, the start just killed us”, says Griffin. “That was one of our pitfalls last year but we’ve improved a lot this year. It was a relief to beat Castlebar as if we’d lost a third semi-final, it would have meant a lot of the good work was undone.
“It’s a big occasion today for the families and supporters but the players are focusing on the game. For a lot of them it’ll be their last game for the school. We’ve prepared well. There’s about 10 of them with the Kerry minors but there’s been great co-operation and we can’t wait for it now.”
Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO