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Scoring star and Kerry's great football hope - Clifford aims to finish minor career in style

Plenty eyes on the Kerry captain in tomorrow’s curtain raiser.

David Clifford David Clifford after Kerry's Munster minor final win in July. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

UNLESS THE TEAMS are deadlocked, then the final whistle around 2.30pm in Croke Park on Sunday will signal the close of David Clifford’s minor football career.

The hope for the Kerry teenager then is that he will be climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Tom Markham Cup after a win over Derry.

The victorious captain aims to conclude a two-year run of breathtaking scoring displays and show-stopping performances.

Clifford already has two Munster medals and an All-Ireland medal to his credit. He made his minor bow in a 2016 Munster opener against Waterford off the back of a stunning haul of 2-5 in the Hogan Cup final for St Brendan’s.

Since then Clifford has made 11 minor championship appearances for Kerry and racked up 6-64 in the process. Even more impressively he has not been the primary free-taker – Sean O’Shea last year and Donal O’Sullivan this year entrusted there – and while Clifford has kicked some placed balls, he has still weighed in with 6-46 from open play.

The one game where he failed to raise a white flag was in last year’s All-Ireland final but still made his mark with a marvellous individual goal.

Source: 7777demonhunterband7777/YouTube

David Clifford scoring record

2016

  • 0-5 (0-2f) v Waterford
  • 0-4 (0-2f) v Clare
  • 1-5 (0-2f) v Cork
  • 0-5 v Derry
  • 0-8 (0-2f) v Kildare
  • 1-0 v Galway

2017

  • 1-4 (0-1 ’45) v Clare
  • 2-8 (0-3f) v Cork
  • 0-6 v Clare
  • 0-9 (0-3f) v Louth
  • 1-10 (0-2f, 0-1 ’45) v Cavan

David Clifford celebrates David Clifford celebrates scoring a goal against Cavan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Recognition for his individual exploits has followed. He has claimed the man-of-the-match award in both of his Munster final outings and his two All-Ireland semi-final appearances.

The clamour about the Fossa youngster grew after he ransacked the Cavan defence for 1-10 in the semi-final and suggestions that a senior call-up – which is not permitted under eligbility rules for inter-county minor players – should be in the offing for Kerry’s replay against Mayo.

“He’s certainly the best minor we’ve seen in some time,” admitted Colm Cooper this week.

“He has consistently performed, he’s six-foot plus, he can play with both feet, he can see a pass. He seems to have it all.

“But interestingly I heard comments that Kerry should have brought him onto the panel for the Mayo replay and to me that’s madness.

“You can’t just do that, you can’t be playing a minor game one week and then come out and playing for the seniors against a team like Mayo.

“Imagine him going in on Lee Keegan or Colm Boyle. So he’ll get his opportunity, he might even be brought in next year or it might be a year or two.

“But he’s creating a lot of talk around the country, not just Kerry, and rightly so. He’s performing at colleges level, he’s performing at minor level and it’s an exciting time for him.”

Source: SportOfView/YouTube

Clifford’s playing style has naturally sparked comparisons with Maurice Fitzgerald and with his home just outside Killarney, there have also been parallels drawn to the blazing impact that Cooper made from a young age.

Despite the hype swirling around him, Clifford remains grounded and it is both Cooper and a current Armagh senior who he has modeled himself on.

“There’s enough fellas around who’ll bring you back to earth! I don’t think about it too much in fairness.

“There’s always another game. It’s not going to help me, it’s not going to improve me if I do keep thinking about those things.”

“Being from Kerry it’s hard to look past Colm Cooper of course. I’ve only briefly met him. It’s plain to see what he’s done.

“But outside of Kerry I’ve always looked up to Jamie Clarke (Armagh) for some reason, I think something about his style of play caught my eye.

“I always followed him and tried to do a few things the same way as he did them. He was one of my main heroes growing up.”

Jamie Clarke Armagh's Jamie Clarke Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There have been whispers of how Clifford is coveted by Australian Rules teams and fears in Kerry that a blue-chip talent may be flighted away to another hemisphere like Listowel’s Tadhg Kennelly, Tralee’s Tommy Walsh and Dingle’s Mark O’Connor before him.

Kerry hope to maximise his talents on a bigger, grander stage in years to come. But for now his focus is trained on Sunday and parking any other distractions.

David Clifford David Clifford in action against Cork in May. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“It’s a nice thing to have, but obviously if we don’t win the game the captaincy is not going to matter too much. It’s a bit of a sideshow.

“I think it is [the first time a Fossa man has captained his county]. It’s a nice honour for the club. I don’t tend to think about those kind of things personally myself too much.

“I think more about the team and if I don’t perform somebody else will, another forward is going to get the scores or somebody out the field is going to perform, so I don’t worry about it much.”

One more step to round off a golden run at minor level.


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Fintan O'Toole

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