THE Padraigh Griffin Memorial Cup football tournament paid tribute to one of Clonakilty GAA’s greatest-ever players in Ahamilla recently.
A Cork SFC champion in 1996 and 2009, Padraigh Griffin’s legacy lives on within the club he graced in such swashbuckling manner from underage to senior before his untimely passing last October.
Over 60 players, involving four teams made up of current and former seniors as well as a sprinkling of U17s participated in the inaugural Padraigh Griffin Memorial Cup tournament at Clon’s GAA complex in Ahamilla. A huge attendance added to a keenly contested 10-a-side tournament bookmarked by plenty of meaty tackles and an equal amount of laughs.
New Clonakilty senior football manager Martin O’Brien was proud of the fact this one-day tournament was the brainchild of his players. The Clon senior panel approached their manager with an idea to honour one of their club’s greatest players. A one-day tournament that would involve Clon’s U17s was met with O’Brien’s immediate approval.
Padraigh’s brother Mark spoke to the participants shortly before the tournament began and presented the winning team captain Mark White with the Memorial Cup immediately afterwards. Speaking through the tears, Mark did his brother, late mother and father, and extended Griffin family proud by expressing his gratitude for the way Clonakilty GAA had come together to pay tribute in such a warm an affectionate manner.
Yet perhaps Saturday’s most poignant moment was a presentation to the standout U17 player on the day, Ciarán Coakley. The first-ever Padraigh Griffin Rising Star award winner fully deserved his accolade following a string of stellar performances across a busy afternoon. Padraigh Griffin would have approved of one particular Coakley goal that arrowed into the top corner of the net.
“We all mourn Padraigh’s passing but today was a chance for Clonakilty GAA club to show the respect we will always have for him,” Clonakilty senior football manager Martin O’Brien said.
“People talk about standards and cultures all the time. Identity is a bigger thing, in my opinion anyway. That was one of the key messages when I was approached by the players to help organise this tournament.
The key thing the Clonakilty players spoke about was the need to pay respect to Padraigh and generate their own identity going forward.
"To have such a large group of over 60 players involved and an even bigger crowd here to watch, in the middle of a January Saturday afternoon, well, that’s incredibly special.
“An even bigger thing from today, for me, was the way our senior players got our U17s to integrate into each of the teams, took them under their wing and made sure they completed a proper warm-up. That is what helps cultivate a club’s identity and is something I know my (late) friend and teammate would have approved of.
“The main thing today was to honour Padraigh’s memory and I am proud of the way the club has come together to do just that.”
As I stood on the side-line amongst family and friends, it was still hard to believe that Padraigh Griffin’s tragic death had occurred only four months before. Working my way through the crowd, everyone had a story about Padraigh, everyone had a memory or funny story to share about an individual who brightened people’s lives both on and off the pitch.
An important and hugely enjoyable day was rounded off by the presentation of medals to a group of Clonakilty’s latest emerging talent. Clon’s 2022 Rebel Óg West Cork U12 A football championship-winning squad received their medals and brand new gear bags kindly sponsored by Coffey Financial Consulting.
All the excitement and laughter in a crowded clubhouse bar and reception area brought me back to the night Padraigh Griffin captained and celebrated Clonakilty’s U21 West Cork football championship in 1996.
That same year, Padraigh wrote his name into the club’s history books with a series of match-winning performances en-route to county senior glory. Padraigh’s injury-time winning goal in the 1996 county semi-final win over St Finbarr’s was another magical moment from an all too short lifetime or memories.
Now, a new generation of footballers will follow in his footsteps. Padraigh's legacy will live on through his wife Debbie, sons Alex and Jack, as well as every youngster who pulls on the famous red and green jersey.