HE was the great white hope of Kildare football when he left Ireland in 2010 to play Aussie Rules.
After a couple of topsy-turvy seasons in Australia, Paul Cribbin returned home last year but it wasn’t until last Wednesday night that he announced his return to the Gaelic football world. His first start with the Lilies since an epic Leinster minor quarter-final against Dublin three years ago, Cribbin showed just why he was so sought after by Collingwood with a wonderful display against Laois.
The Johnstowbridge man scored two points from half-back in the first half as he raided down the right wing. Apart from a free he conceded in the opening minute, which led to Laois’ first point, Cribbin was excellent and worked tirelessly throughout the game. He always seemed to be available for a pass every time Kildare attacked and although he kicked two wides as well his brace of points in the first half, he managed to get the ball to a man in white every time he passed – four times with the foot and three times with the hand.
His second half display was even better. He scored with both of his shots and picked up three balls at midfield having switched to right half-forward. He was the busiest man on the pitch and only put one of his 11 passes astray. He also set up Niall Kelly for a point in the 38th minute and launched the ball forward that led to a pointed free for Fionn Dowling in the first half. For a man who has played precious little football since his minor days, it was an amazing return to form.
The biggest thing was that they played for each other. Nobody was looking to be the man,” said his manager Kieran McGeeney who was keen to emphasise the collective as much as any individual. “Although Cribbin had a great individual display, if you look at it closely most of the points he got were the work of other people and letting him use his pace.
With Cribbin in the side, Kildare are a different beast though and his ability to get forward from deep and finish is a huge asset, one that has always been highly valued by McGeeney in the likes of Emmet Bolton and Eamonn Callaghan with the senior side.
“They know I’ll take them (under-21s) in (with the seniors) if they’re playing like that,” said McGeeney. “It’s the work ethic I’m looking for and in fairness they’re beginning to show it.”
None more so than Cribbin, who is playing like someone trying to make up for lost time.
PAUL CRIBBIN V LAOIS
FP HP S B Fs A
1st Half 4/4 3/3 2/4 2 1 2
2nd Half 5/6 4/4 2/2 3 0 1
Key – FP (Foot-pass); HP (Hand-pass), S (Shot), B (Break), F (Foul), A (Assist)