Tony Griffin bringing that little bit extra to Dublin’s cause
Former Clare star just one of a varied and experienced backroom team assembled by manager Anthony Daly
Tony Griffin: bringing a lot of experience to help in the mental preparation of Dublin’s players. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Tony Griffin is no Dublin selector and certainly not a life coach. Nor is he a spiritual advisor. Still only 32-years-old, he could’ve been a Dublin hurler. Been there – done that, happy with The Banner colours.
So what is he then?
“I’d a played with Griff back in 2000, 2001 and the early part of 2002 until I pulled out of the panel, and they got to the All-Ireland final,” Anthony Daly says. “Then I was manager 2004, ’05 and ’06; he would have won an All Star in 2006.
“Then he went off doing the cycle in 2007. We remained friends when he was in Canada for a good while. A good bloke.”
‘The cycle’ was a year in the saddle, covering 7,000 kilometres across Canada, raising almost €1 million for cancer charity. It was all done in the memory of his father, Jerome.
Anyway, Daly knew Griffin was living in Dalkey and training away with Cuala, home to the Schutte brothers, Oisín Gough and David Treacy.
“So I asked him would he play for a year last year.”
Ryan O’Dwyer had decamped from Tipperary a few seasons back, Niall Corcoran won a minor All-Ireland with Galway in 2000, so why not wrangle in a slightly higher profile hurler who had seen and done it all?
“I knew he was still playing good stuff for Ballyea. He just couldn’t see himself giving the commitment again. Then this year I went back to him and I knew he was doing a lot of work with Sore, his charity.
“I just asked him would he come on the scene. I was at the launch of the championship and loads of fellas put labels on him like ‘life coach’.
“I said, ‘Look, what do you see the role as?
“And he says, ‘I could see myself helping a few lads. Maybe just with their confidence and a few of the things I went through myself, trying to play at this level and a few of the problems, the things that haunted me.’
“So he just trained with the boys early in the year, dug in, doing all the physical stuff in O’Toole Park. He did maybe three group sessions and they might have been 10 minutes down the beach in Portmarnock. Jogged down the end of the beach with him and they all sit in the sand. I don’t think he says too much, he gets them to talk.”
Daly’s best way of describing Griffin’s role is to mention his own personal Tonto.
“If more lads are in a good place mentally it helps the squad. It is more individual, like when I was with Clare, Father Harry (Bohan) used to take lads off for a bit of tae.
“Think of the seasons in 2005 and 2006 that Tony Carmody had for instance. I would attribute an awful lot of that to Father Harry meeting him for lunch once a week nearly down the Clare Inn. They’d have a sandwich and a cup of tea and he’d say, ‘Well Carmo, how’s things goin’? How’s the guards goin’? How’s life goin’?
“You know? ‘How’s training goin’? Are you happy? What do you think you should work on?
“It’s like that for us all, isn’t it? In our lives to talk about things is good. He’s a great communicator, Tony.”
Dublin captain Johnny McCaffrey says: “Sometimes you get sports psychologists in that haven’t played the game. They are talking good things but it is hard to relate to. With Tony, you know he has been at the top for a long time, you know he knows what’s needed.”
Griffin’s not the only addition Daly made to the Dublin hurling backroom in 2013. Martin Kennedy became conditioning coach for the footballers so Ross Dunphy replaced him.
“Maybe if you could marry a bobsledder and a kayaker and put a bit of hurling into them you’d have a prototype,” said Dunphy when talking about his philosophy.
“You want hurlers to be very mobile and flexible upper body-wise, you want to be able to take hits but be able to move quickly from it.
“I worked fairly closely with Tommy (Dunne) in Toomevara and with Tipp. Anthony brought him in for a few sessions and he’s still working with us once a-week and we’d work quite well together. Tommy would be emphasising the touch, the movement, the speed of play and you marry that with fitness and they look quite fit.”
The recently retired Shane Martin is another to join the management trio of Daly, another Tipp man in Richie Stakelum and Ciarán Hetherton.
“Shane’s a breath of fresh air in terms of enthusiasm,” Daly continued. “He loves the video work, he is eating up that side of it, whereas I’d prefer to be outside with a whistle and a stop watch, roaring, telling lads to go faster.”
Stakelum perhaps sums up the current group best: “We’ve matured as a management team. We made mistakes (two years ago), the focus was more about what was going on outside . . . . The focus now is not about anyone else, it’s about what Dublin can bring and if that’s good enough it’s good enough, if it’s not it’s not.”