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'Off the ball, he’s doing dirty work' - Clifford's scintillating form driving Kerry forward

Paul Murphy says having a second Clifford brother on the team has been a major advantage for the Kingdom.

KERRY CAPTAIN PAUL Murphy has praised his heammate Paudie Clifford for the superb work he has been contributing to the Kingdom since making his breakthrough at inter-county level.

gaa-all-ireland-senior-football-championship-launch Kerry captain Paul Murphy. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

A brother of fellow star forward David, Clifford made his first start for the Kerry seniors earlier this year during the league and has cemented a spot as one of their key attackers.

He consistently chips in with scores for Peter Keane’s outfit, helping himself to three points in a man-of-the-match display against Cork in the Munster SFC final.

Clifford has blossomed for the Kerry seniors having previously represented the county’s junior team, and the Kerry skipper is confident that his arc will continue to rise.

“Yeah, I played with him for East Kerry last year,” says Murphy.

“He had a really good year for us. The year before that, 2019, East Kerry won as well but we weren’t a part of that, the Rathmore lads. He was very good that year as well and was called into the panel on the back of that, for 2020. He’s doing really well.

“He’s very fit, he’s working very hard and he strikes me as a guy who has got a jersey and is not going to give up this jersey without a fight. It’s brilliant for us, he’s putting in big performances and he’s working very hard for the team.

“He’s doing off the ball dirty work as well, he’s not shirking any of that. He’s playing really well and we’re all hoping he’ll continue his form.”

Prior to Clifford’s arrival, his younger sibling David was under an intense spotlight alongside another starlet Seán O’Shea.

Murphy agrees that the addition of a second Clifford has lightened the burden on the other Kerry forwards but insists that they are all equipped to handle pressure.

“The two lads you mentioned, Seanie and David, they’re two very level headed guys. They get a lot of attention but I don’t think they take a lot of notice of it.

“Paudie is coming in and he’s a very good distributor of the ball. He’s probably opening up opportunities for the two boys and the likes of Paul Geaney and Stephen O’Brien as well. So he’s adding a lot to our forward line, he’s working hard for the team. So we’re very happy with how Paudie is performing.”

The Kerry team had a special guest in the huddle after that provincial triumph in July. Squad member Seán O’Leary, who was seriously injured in a car crash earlier this summer, was smiling with his teammates for the celebrations.

A promising defender who won an All-Ireland minor medal in 2017 and a club intermediate medal in Croke Park in 2019, O’Leary was brought into the squad this season.

“It was great to see him,” says Murphy. “He’s a great lad. He’s been in with us there the last couple of months. And just very enjoyable lad to be around, he’s always laughing and smiling. 

“We wish him well in his recovery from that. What happened to Sean, and there’s been other tragedies around the GAA community in the last few months, Brendán Óg Ó Dufaigh in Monaghan and Thomas Healy from Beaufort here in Kerry, and it puts everything into perspective. But it also shows how strong the GAA is in communities and how important it is to people. 

“It just hits home how much of a privileged position we’re in to be a part of that community, and to be playing a part in such big and important matches such as Munster finals or All-Ireland semi-finals.”

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richard-donnelly-and-mike-breen The sides last met in the Division 1 semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kerry have had an unusual wait before their All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone. The final-four clash has been postponed twice due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Red Hand camp.

The game is finally set to get underway on Saturday afternoon, which will be almost a whole month since their provincial final win.

The sides met in the Division 1 semi-final back in June, where Kerry recorded an impressive 6-16 to 1-13 result. However, Tyrone have made some changes to their personnel since then, and are Ulster champions after overcoming Monaghan.

Murphy is expecting a much stiffer challenge when the two sides collide again. 

“It’s a new game and it’s a completely different game really. We had a good result against Tyrone in the league but I mean I don’t think you could compare the two matches in terms of their importance and what’s at stake.

“That match was in Killarney where we have a really good record. We had no travel to the game compared to Tyrone, this is in Croke Park, it’s an All-Ireland semi-final, Munster versus Ulster up there.

“Tyrone have come through a very difficult Ulster championship campaign beating Division 1 teams in Donegal and Monaghan and they’re developing as a team and as a squad. They’re a serious outfit and we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

Paul Murphy was speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland senior football championship.

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