"At least we won the game."
The words of ace Kildare player, Paul Cribbin, as he looked back on the recent Kildare v Meath League semi final that saw The Lilies defeat The Royals and book a place in next season's SFL Division 1.
It was, of course a game that ended prematurely for the Johnstownbridge man as he was carried off in the opening half in what turned out to be a nasty leg injury, two bones fractured in his leg and now facing a, yet-to-be-determined period on the sideline.
“I was going for a ball, that broke and whatever way I fell I got caught underneath a Meath player and then his body weight came down on top of my leg” explained the schoolmaster who teaches in Scoil Mhuire, Clane, where the principal is former Kildare senior football manager, Pauric Nolan.
“Hard to know how long I will be out” he said when we spoke last week, “it's very disappointing” adding, “it would have been worse if we had lost the game, winning made it that little bit better.”
Paul was stretched off the field and brought immediately by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital, keeping in touch with the game, through twitter, while also talking to his dad and brother on the mobile who were both at the game.
Just after he left school, at 18 Paul was offered a contract to play in Australis and off he went for two years.
“That was a tough decision to make at the time but in hindsight I was glad I did it; I always wanted to play with Kildare but it worked out well in the end, and once I came back home I was immediately back playing with the county, and my club Johnstownbridge.”
Was playing full time professional football something he had always wanted to do?
“I went straight from school so I never knew what playing football and working and getting the balance was like, so in many respects it wasn't really much of an adjustment that way, if you know what I mean.”
On his return Paul was part of Kieran McGeeney's U21 team that defeated Longford in the Leinster final of 2013, a team laced with talent.
Players that wore the white of Kildare that year and are now the backbone of the Kildare senior squad include the likes of Mark Donnellan, David Hyland, Fergal Conway, Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy.
“Of course Kieran McGeeney was the Kildare manager back then, he (McGeeney) gets the best out of his players” admits Cribbin, but adds that “Kildare team underachieved in the All-Ireland series and I know Galway were very good (beat Kildare in the All-Ireland U21 semi final going on to defeat Cork in the final) we had a great
team that year, just look at the players that have come through to the senior ranks.”
Paul made his
senior championship debut that year (2013) against Offaly in Croke Park and admits that while any Kildare v Offaly clash is always competitive affair, that year due to the fact that many of the lads he went to school with back then would have been playing with St Mary's Edenderry, then especially when Emmet McDonnell, now a Kildare selector/ coach, would have been with St Mary's at the time but he was also Offaly senior manager as well.
Paul admits that where he lives, “not only have they a big rivalry with Offaly due to the fact a lot of us had gone to school there, and many went on to represent both Kildare and Offaly, but there is also a big, big rivalry with Meath; my home address, believe or belief it not, is Meath, we are right on the border; so around this neck of the woods the rivalry with Meath is huge also.
“We have had some great battles over the years but it was important for Kildare to get the upper hand on Meath in that league game, very important.”
Paul has played under quiet a few county managers at senior inter-county level at this stage of his career and admits “they all bring something different to the table; they each bring their own style and put a different stamp on things.”
It is obvious now the way Kildare are trying to play football, “well I hope it is obvious anyway” he says, “more of a kicking team; more of a footballing team whereas before we probably relied more on our athleticism but is definitely visible the different styles and approaches a team gets from different managers.”
And does the play-anywhere player think the present style The Lilies are playing suits them as a team?
“Ye, ye, I believe it does; we wouldn't play that type of football if it didn't I feel to be honest; the players that we have, and a lot of work has gone in this year, especially with Emmet McDonnell, the intensity we are trying to bring in, the work-rate, those are key values that underpins everything, that is something we have been working on, especially during the past year.
Paul has worked with Emmet for a good few years at this stage with different teams, “He (Emmet) is very energetic and very good at getting the best out of the players he works with; he has definitely brought a new freshness to the set-up this year.”
New faces, fresh faces, talented players, especially in the forward division, have they impressed Paul Cribbin?
“The competitiveness there in the squad nowadays is something I had not experienced even when I first started with the county. There are a number of players that can slot into any position on any given day that can do the same job as anyone already there; and I think that once you have players that can fit into a position seamlessly, that is ideally what you want.
“Obviously we have that bit of talent coming through, Jimmy (Hyland) has that class, he was always going to be a very good Kildare footballer but this is the year we are really seeing just what he is made of.
“Just like Brian McLoughlin and Shane O'Sullivan, these lads have shown great promise with the underage teams, so it is great to see those young lads, from loads of different clubs come to the fore in the senior set-up, it all gives the county great options, ,which is what you need, successfully mixing it with the more experienced players on the team and panel.”
As for the Leinster Championship that got under way only last weekend Paul admits the “Meath game might have taken a bit out of us due to the casualties but, as I said earlier, Kildare are in a good state in that regard as we have good lads that can step in and do fine job for you, regardless of who is missing.
“Look, we all know Dublin have, and remain a great team, it is just our bad luck that we happen to be in the same province as them, but at the end of the day you have to keep testing yourself against the best that is around; we play Offaly in the quarter final and without a doubt that is going to be a stern test for Kildare.
“On top of that” admits Paul, “the first championship game brings it's very own added pressure and everything that comes with it and, while not sure yet what kind of crowd numbers will be allowed, but regardless you can be assured that there will be a great atmosphere in O'Moore Park that day.”
The main thing is not to look beyond your next game, especially with this year's championship is straight knock-out; I believe the mind-set you must have is simply concentrate on the next game, and no further, added the popular player.
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