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'He's fairly similar to Maurice Fitz' - Kerry legend Moynihan lauds 'exceptional' Clifford

High praise for the Kingdom skipper.

ASK SEAMUS MOYNIHAN about David Clifford’s ability and he says there’s two players the young star reminds him of: Maurice Fitzgerald and Colm Cooper.

pjimage (4) Maurice Fitzgerald and David Clifford. Source: Inpho

The legendary full-back played with both men during his 15-year career with Kerry and holds Clifford in a similar esteem to the Kingdom greats.

Moynihan had a front row view of Clifford’s rapid development during his late teens. He first noticed the forward while he was playing in the Frewen Cup (an U16.5 schools competition) with St Brendan’s, Killarney before leading the senior team to Hogan Cup glory in 2016.

Moynihan, a four-time All-Ireland winner, coached Clifford’s East Kerry minor team and then managed his club team Fossa in 2018 and 2019.

“Look, obviously, he’s an exceptional talent and a lovely guy, a very grounded fella,” says Moynihan. “He’s beyond his years really in terms of what he’s doing on the field and what he’s doing off the field.

“He doesn’t get excited about anything. He’s a fantastic guy to deal with. Albeit from a club point of view we didn’t see too much of him. Anytime he could train he did train with us.

“But, obviously, he was tied up with Kerry for the majority of the year.

“David is a great, great guy. The way he dealt with his shoulder injury last year…he did the rehab, he came back, albeit sluggish at the start, but as the year went on you could see he was coming really, really good and by the end of the year he was absolutely flying again.

“That form followed into the latter part of the championship and into the Kerry county championship as well, where, to be fair, he was unstoppable in the Kerry county championship, racking up points for fun.”

He recalls watching Clifford smash in a goal in the Hogan Cup final at Croke Park in 2016 that “that he had no right to get.”

“He should have gone for a point and he put a rocket into the top of the net in the Hill 16 side of the goal, it was a fantastic goal,” smiles Moynihan.

“You could see he had something really, really special and I think he’s built on that. He’s built on his fitness and he’s built on his overall game. He has become a really, really solid guy.

“It’s very hard to think he’s still only 21 and he’s captain of Kerry. But he’s an ideal candidate for that too.”

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

So when he’s asked if he’s ever seen anything quite like Clifford before, Moynihan immediately responds: “Well I have – Maurice Fitz and Colm Cooper. They are guys obviously with exactly the same kind of talents.

“Even to look at, he’s fairly similar to Maurice Fitz in his height, in his gait and what not. They were exceptional players as well so if he can tick the boxes the boys have done it’ll be fantastic.

“David is a team player and he will always take an opportunity when he gets it. He has a fantastic ability to score with his left leg, he has a good right leg as well, but his ability to spray the ball and give the ball to the right player in the right position – no different to Gooch or Maurice in their day – is exceptional.

“The leadership qualities and he’s not shy. No different to the free-kick the last day against Dublin when he had to stand up and split it over the bar, he showed those leadership skills to stand up and just slot it over as if he was only taking a point back in Fossa in a training session.

seamus-moynihan Seamus Moynihan was speaking ahead of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Feile weekend which plays host to the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s fantastic for a 21-year-old to even be compared to the likes of Colm and Maurice Fitz. If he keeps going on the upward curve that he’s going it’s unbelievable.

“But from David’s point of view and from Kerry’s point of view, we must only realise it’s February and there’s absolutely nothing won except Sigersons and a couple of Mickey Mouse competitions in February.

“So David just needs to make sure he continues his good form and you’re ultimately judged in Kerry in July for Munster and August now for All-Irelands,” he added. 

Clifford is currently studying at IT Tralee, where Moynihan himself completed a Masters back in the late 90s. Back then, they were the Harlem Globetrotters of college football.

Moynihan’s team-mates in a star-studded line-up included Jim McGuinness, Michael Donnellan, Padraic Joyce, Mike Frank Russell, William Kirby and John Casey.

“The college really put a lot of effort into it,” says the former defender.

“The likes of Val Andrews who went on to Dublin afterwards and trained Cavan as well. Pat Flanagan. I suppose they just put a huge emphasis on the sport in Tralee at the time. 

“And I suppose went head hunting as well. I think there were seven guys on that team who won All-Irelands so we were a very strong team to be fair.”

The Glenfesk native has been impressed with Joyce’s early impact as Galway manager and the style of football he’s trying to employ.

“Padraic is a very knowledgeable in terms of football,” he says of his old team-mate.

padraig-joyce-and-seamus-moynihan Joyce and Moynihan were team-mates at IT Tralee. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“He’s a footballing man number one, and I think what he will do and what he’ll certainly try to do is bring the traditional game back there in Galway.

“Even the last night you could certainly see that they were kicking the ball way more than the previous (years). It’s hard to compare and contrast, but I know the way Padraic thinks about football, and I know he’ll want to move the ball faster into the forward line.

“And I think already the likes of Shane Walsh is benefitting from that. You talk to any forward in the morning. They’ll always want fast ball in. It’s the slow, lateral possession reverse (passing).

“He made a comment I think after the game that some of the players are still stuck in reverse, where they’re going backwards, their initial instinct is to try go back with the ball. 

“So I think he’ll try and eradicate that, he’ll try to get them going forward faster with the ball, and play a game probably similar to what Galway played back when they were winning All-Irelands. 

“I think that style of play is exciting, and it’s great to watch. I think more teams will adapt to that, as opposed to sitting back and just hoping to stop teams playing. It’s better to see teams having a go and attacking with pace.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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