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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 28 October 2020

After Clifford and Fenton's heroics, Keane and Farrell give exhibition in art of saying nothing

Neither manager gave much away after last night’s entertaining draw.

Kerry's David Clifford after the game.
Kerry's David Clifford after the game.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

HE ONLY TURNED 21 this week, but already David Clifford looks ready to join Mikey Sheehy, Maurice Fitzgerald and Colm Cooper on Kerry’s Mount Rushmore of attacking greats.

Clifford’s birthday celebrations involved a Saturday night of exhilaration that few of his mere mortal peers could match.

He kicked a stoppage-time free in a heaving Croke Park to finish his first game as Kerry captain with 1-3 to his name.

The goal was a thing of beauty, arriving after he’d barely felt the weight of the ball in the opening quarter. Davy Byrne’s diving block in front of the Hill summed up Clifford’s early struggles.

And just like that, he flashed into life.

He gathered a ball about 40 metres from goal, danced past Byrne, before showing incredible poise and balance to gather a high solo in front of Eoin Murchan and roll it under the advancing Evan Comerford.

Kerry scored 1-8 between the 15th minute and half-time. Clifford had a direct involvement in 1-5 of that tally, including his wonder goal, two points, two assists and was fouled for Sean O’Shea’s pointed free.

After his last-gasp free sealed a share of the spoils, Dean Rock was the first over to show his respect for the Fossa ace. Before he left the field, Clifford found himself embroiled in the tangle of bodies as tempers frayed between both sides post-final whistle.

His number 14 jersey didn’t survive the handbags and was ripped apart, but he left Croke Park with his reputation enhanced even further.

So too did Brian Fenton. The man-of-the-match galloped forward and stroked over four composed points on the run that he has made his hallmark.

Fenton has long established himself as one of the all-time great midfielders. At 26, the scary thing is his best years might still be ahead of him.

adrian-spillane-and-brian-fenton Fenton shrugs off a challenge as he strides forward. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Not long after Clifford and Fenton were performing on-field heroics, their respective managers put on a clinic in the art of saying nothing in the post-game press conferences.

Peter Keane set the terms of engagement earlier in the week when he reprised a tale from his youth in response to a question about Dublin.

“My grandmother, when I was a young lad, a long time ago – she lived ’til she was 101-and-a-half, and the half was very important. But she used to have a great way of saying things.

“One of the things she used often say when I was asking her questions as a young lad was: ‘We’ll milk our cows and they can milk their cows’. It’s very apt in this situation. I’ll worry about Kerry and they can worry about Dublin.”

It was put to Keane last night that a game which involved two red cards, two blacks, 10 yellows and a melee at full-time looked bad-tempered at times.

“Was there? It didn’t feel dirty, it didn’t seem dirty to me anyway. Feisty, but there were no great flare-ups or anything, was there?”

What about David Clifford’s first performance as captain?

“Sure you’d have expected that of David Clifford, whether he was going to be captain or nothing. He did what he was asked to do.”

Did his late score leave Kerry feeling it was a point earned rather than one lost?

“I suppose we could look at it that way, Dublin could look at it that way, but look it’s a point and we’ll take it.”

How close are Tom O’Sullivan and Gavin White to returning from injury?

“Yerra, they’re not far away at all.”

Is Peter Keane heading home happy after that performance?

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“Yerra, Peter Keane is getting ready to go home, the same way he’d have to go home either which way, whether we won or lost.”

dessie-farrell Dublin manager Dessie Farrell stands for the national anthem. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Enter Farrell, who could only confirm that the Dublin backroom team displayed on the big screen before the game of Mick Galvin, Paul Clarke and Shane O’Hanlon was “the management team for now, yeah.”

In his defence, he’s still getting his feet under the table following his late appointment last year. James McCarthy captained Dublin for their opening game of Farrell’s reign, but “no decision (was made) on captaincy just yet,” he added.

As with Keane, Farrell was reluctant to disclose much information on the injury front.

Pressed on return dates for Jack McCaffrey and Mick Fitzsimons, he responded: “We’re literally taking it week by week. At this stage some fellas need rest, some fellas are injured, some fellas have work commitments so we’re going to play that one by ear.”

On Michael Darragh Macauley, who is out with a groin injury, he said: “Michael is going to be out for a period. Not too sure just yet how long but he probably won’t be involved in the first three league games anyway.”

Will it require surgery?

“The doctors are looking at that now. Not sure at this point in time what’s required.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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