I was at the Pav at 1pm waiting for Liam Cribbin, currently working on a PhD in Chemistry. The man from Tulsk, County Roscommon, was the Commander-in-Chief of last year’s freshers football team, bringing them all the way to—and winning—the Freshers B All-Ireland final.
He revealed: “We were training zero times a week. We did one thing where we went up to the hall in the sports centre, we went up there and played basketball. We didn’t do one single Gaelic training session in the entire year.”
Continuing, the former Captain explained: “The lads would get to go out drinking and they’d call me out drinking as well. I didn’t really think training was great, take anyone who was playing intercounty: he’d be training three or four times a week and their home club would be looking for him to play as well.” Cribbin revealed that: “This would have been around the start of the [Intercounty] league, and I know the Under 20s would have been on at that stage, so there was a lot of other things on.”
Most of the players living in Trinity Hall also hinders the use of Santry, where the College GAA club has their pitches: “You wouldn’t get lads up there, because it’s such a trek. Like, you’d be finished College at 6 on a Tuesday and you’d want to get out for a few drinks or meet the woman — you wouldn’t want to be heading out to Santry!”
“There’s a savage pitch and all out there; it’s grand for a game, but there’s no sense training there,” Cribbin conceded, “It’d be different if we could use College Park, but I don’t think we’d ever get it.” I let him know that in the early 90s, the football team which included the likes of Joe Brolly used to train on the cricket pitch.
On top of issues with pitches, there were issues with equipment. Throughout the season, the team only had three footballs, two of which were borrowed from LIT. Liam also confessed to compiling two sets of jerseys together: “We had one old set of jerseys and one new enough set, so I had to mash them together to make sure we’d 15 shirts.”
“During the final at one stage we had two number 14s and two number 3 jerseys out on the pitch.”
Four years without victory
Aside from the unfavourable logistics, Cribbinho—as he is affectionately known—went on to explain his misfortunes with Trinity GAA: “I never won a game and I played for Trinity for four years. So the first time these lads [the freshers] won one I thought ‘Jesus, they’re going to be unreal.’”
Their first win came against UCD’s B team in UCD, which made it all the sweeter. “There was no crowd at it. We literally went down there using bibs as cones.”
While Trinity’s Freshers mightn’t have been too well stocked, other teams were much better equipped, with full backroom teams and proper gear for all the players.
The freshers faced stiff competition in the Championship last year. In their group they faced Tallaght, Blanchardstown and Dundalk.
“It was strange, Tallaght and Blanchardstown both have IT’s, but they never have enough players to field a team, so we got byes from both those games.” Consequently, “we just had to play DKIT, which had Oisín McConville (legendary Armagh footballer) as a manager, and we beat them.” The beating of DKIT came as a shock, due to the fact that McConville undoubtedly had them organised.
Up next came a surprise victory against TUS Athlone, after coming back from six points down to beat them on penalties. “There were two minutes to go when Lee Gannon got a goal and Conor Leonard got a penalty,” Cribbin explained, “The lads were relaxed, I never put any pressure on them and it stood to them. They were able to make good decisions.”
“That match was crazy because a crowd had gathered and they started throwing flares onto the pitch and smoke bombs were thrown on the dugout. We almost came to blows with their bench!”
“Ben Keane thought he was in the MMA rather than on a Gaelic football pitch at times. Benny O’ Neill could be a bit of a stirrer at times too.”
Benny O’Neill would end up missing the final after injuring his ankle.
The final was against Carlow IT. Trinity’s freshers managed to make an impressive 6 point lead for themselves at half time: “I couldn’t believe what was going on. At half time all the lads were really pumped up but Conor Laverty really calmed the dressing room down at half time.”
“Trinity are good at holding on to the ball, finishing the game out, almost like Dublin were two, three years ago.” Beating a college renowned for their footballing skills also made the win sweeter. Reflecting on five years of College football, going from perennial losers to All-Ireland champions wasn’t half bad.
“I’d say the lads spent more time with a pint glass in the hand than playing football.”