Interview with Kerry Manager Robbie Blake


Robbie Griffin Interview 

A hard one to call By Denise Horan

Mayo and Dublin are teams well-known to Robbie Griffin.
Over the last two seasons, he has encountered both as
he has striven to bring Kerry back to the top of ladies
football, where they resided for all of the 1980s.

From 1993 to this year Kerry won nothing, not a single
championship match. Quite a record for a team that had
won eleven senior titles in the previous 13 years.

This year, finally, under the guidance of Griffin, they
made a breakthrough, beating long-standing rivals Waterford
in the Munster final and then surprsing many by overcoming
Laois in the quarter-final. At the semi-final stage
they came undone, at the hands of Mayo’s opponents on
Sunday, Dublin.

Going into the game, Kerry were favourites in many people’s
books, largely because of the presence on their team
of two of the most gifted players in the game, Geraldine
O’Shea and Kasey O’Driscoll. Their quality alone didn’t
suffice though, against the strength of the Dubs.

“We struggled at midfield and our half-forward line,
all minors, didn’t perform at all. We were leading at
half-time by four points, but that was a false reading
of the game really. They had missed a lot of chances
and they were on top in midfield. They should have been
much closer,” he admits.

In the end Dublin won by four points, but with the luxury
of a missed penalty and with only 14 players on the
field for the final quarter. Griffin acknowledges their
excellence and accepts Kerry were beaten by a better
team. “Their fitness levels are incredible; they have
raised the bar to a new height in that regard. That
allows them to play the game with great intensity for
the the full 60 minutes, which they do. Their physical
strength is their other great attribute; when they go
in for 50/50 balls they just blow people away, especially
young players, and we had a lot of those.”

A gentleman, who talks openly to everyone and is always
gracious in defeat, Robbie spoke to Dublin manager,
Mick Bohan, after the game and learned the secret of
his team’s preparations. “They are the fittest team
in Ireland, that’s obvious. They follow a programme
which is based on seven nights a week training. They
train together three times, play a match every weekend
and spend 30 minutes doing weights the other nights.
It’s incredible commitment and I don’t think any other
ladies team is doing it,” he offers.

He has also seen plenty of Mayo in recent times, having
played them twice this year and four times last season,
between league and challenge matches. In Griffin’s estimation,
Sunday’s final will be very interesting because the
two teams have contrasting styles. “Mayo’s game is not
based on physical strength as much as Dublin’s, nor
is it as intense. Mayo have problems when teams run
at them, especially the half-back line. If they are
to contain Dublin, they will have to be willing to take
the hits and give them. They can’t stand off or put
out a hand and hope the Dublin player stops; that won’t

“Mayo will need to use the wings, something we attempted
to do but didn’t. Croke Park is a wider pitch though,
so Mayo will have a better chance of avoiding the middle,”
he states. “And Mayo have more options than we did,
they’re a much better team. We were relying on Geraldine
and Kasey, whereas they have Cora Straunton and Marcella
Heffernan in attack and if that isn’t working they can
play Christina Heffernan. If I could transfer one player
to my team it would be Christina Heffernan; I think
she’s a fantastic footballer.”

So how does he think the final will go and where will
it be won and lost? “Well, you have to ask the question:
can Dublin perform to the same level as they did in
the semi-final? I think they’ll find it difficult. And
Mayo played poorly against Galway, so their big game
might be the final.

“The battle between Claire Egan and Angie McNally will
obviously be a crucial one. Claire Egan is a fine player
and should be able to cope with her much better than
our midfield did. “Helena Lohan and Louise Kelly will
also be interesting. When Louise Kelly wins the ball
players tend to run off her, but Helena has enough experience
and is good enough in the air to be able to deal with

“I think it’s very hard to call. If Dublin play with
the same intensity as they did in the semi-final and
use their strength as well as they can, you’d have to
say they have a good chance. But they need to score
more and that will be difficult. I think Mayo are more
likely to get goals than Dublin and also Mayo’s experience
has to count for something. It’s not all that matters,
but you can’t overlook it either.”


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