End of an era for Westmeath as Greville hangs up his inter-county hurling boots

Gerry Buckley

This scribe is always fascinated by regular clumsy attempts by PA personnel in press boxes around the country to pronounce the name ‘Greville’.

However, there are never such problems locally, as the surname is synonymous with all that is good in Raharney and Westmeath GAA circles – hurling, camogie and football. Accordingly, the announcement last Friday by Paul Greville, one of Westmeath’s most accomplished hurlers this millennium - and a very good footballer to boot - that he is retiring from inter-county fare after over a decade and a half proudly wearing the maroon and white jersey as a senior player in both the small and big ball codes, has led to warm tributes from sporting friend and foe alike.

Paul (34) first played for the Lake County senior hurling team as a teenager in 2004 and he has been a virtual ever-present in defence since, winning two Christy Ring Cup medals in 2005 and 2007, and helping the side to a belated return to top-flight National League hurling by winning Division 2A earlier this year with a narrow win against Kerry in Ennis. He was also a potent corner forward on the senior football team from 2010 to 2015.

The time commitment involved in being an inter-county player is the reason behind the Raharney man’s decision to step down. Paul, a son of arguably the county’s best-ever hurling goalie, Sean, heaped praise on his wife Gráinne for “her patience” over the years, and he now plans to spend more time at home with his wife and baby daughter.

However, Westmeath Gaels will be pleased to know that he has agreed take on a role in Shane O’Brien’s backroom team as the new manager gets set to prepare his troops for a very high-powered Division 1 of the National Hurling League next spring. “I’d like to keep involved but we haven’t fully finalised what I will be at,” Paul stated, before adding – with trademark determination – that the aim in Division 1 is “not just to run the big teams close, but to beat them”.

When he took time from his construction work last Friday as an employee of fellow Raharney clubman, Billy Boyle, to reflect with yours truly about his lengthy spell representing his county, Paul honed in on far more highs than lows.

However, the pain of defeat to Carlow and Laois in 2018 and 2019 respectively in the first two Joe McDonagh Cup finals immediately sprung to mind, with Paul opining: “We didn’t perform in either of them and that was a killer. I hope the lads can rectify that next year, as moral victories are no good any more.”

In the latter category, he added: “I regret not beating Galway in 2012 in Cusack Park especially, and Tipperary in Semple Stadium in 2017, both in the championship, and Limerick and Clare in the league when we met them. I think if we believed in ourselves we would have beaten them.”

Naturally, Paul has been a Westmeath colleague of many fine hurlers over the years. “I started in 2004 as a corner back. Brendan Murtagh was full back, Christo Murtagh was centre back, and Darren McCormack was wing back. So it was great to learn from fellows like that.

“‘Jogger’ Doyle, Aonghus Clarke, the Doyle twins (Killian and Ciaran), and Cormac Boyle, are the lads driving it on at the moment. It has been a privilege to play with all of them and others,” he stated. When asked to name a player whom he consistently found tough to mark, his choice of Gareth Johnston of Down will surprise many.

Paul lauds the contribution of managers such as Pat Clancy from his minor days, while his first senior bainisteoir Tom Ryan (“a tough trainer, but a great character”), and more recently Michael Ryan (“he had a great set-up”), also impressed him. On the club scene, his brother Johnny and Eamonn Gallagher sprung to mind.

Unsurprisingly, a first-ever defeat of Meath in championship football in 2015, thereby qualifying for a rare Leinster final, was his highlight on the football front. He regrets losing to Louth in the 2011 Division 3 final in Croke Park. He enjoyed playing football with players such as Dessie Dolan (“the best footballer Westmeath ever had”), Denis Glennon and Martin Flanagan.

On the club scene, he had many a great day in the saffron jersey of Killucan. “We got to semi-finals several times, but just couldn’t get over the line and make a final with almost the same set of players who played hurling for Raharney,” he reflected.

Indeed, he feels that the days of dual inter-county players are over. “It is not feasible to spread yourself between the two. I did it for one year. Lads are training six out of seven days – and that’s just for one code – and it’s hard for lads to commit, especially for weaker counties that aren’t competing for the Sam Maguire or the Liam McCarthy,” he concluded.

Of course, Paul is staying on in the famous blue and white colours of Raharney and will be hoping to add to his five Westmeath Examiner Cup wins to date. However, his swashbuckling style will be missed in the maroon and white colours that he served so well.

All right-thinking Gaels in the Lake County will wish him health and happiness for decades to come.

Ann Collins RIP

At the funeral Mass of Ann Collins in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar last Friday afternoon, Fr Joe Campbell labelled her “a rock” as a concise summary of her steadfast support to her husband Paddy when the latter was one of the country’s best Gaelic football referees for many years, and a very hard-working and facilitative Westmeath County Board secretary for three decades to boot. How right the celebrant was to use this term.

Fr Joe also lauded Ann’s culinary skills. This sweet-toothed columnist is only too delighted to vouch for that quality! Whether it be to collect precious Croke Park tickets or any other business, GAA-related or otherwise, Ann’s warmth shone through on visits to the Collins family’s loving home in Green Road.

May she rest in peace.

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