Though the championship didn’t exactly go to plan for Kerry, one major positive from 2018 was the emergence of David Clifford as one of their star players.
The 19-year-old scored a phenomenal 4-18 throughout Kerry’s campaign, including 1-5 during the otherwise dismal encounter with Galway and that all important goal against Monaghan that saw them live to fight another day.
The Young Footballer of the Year first came to prominence in the 2017 minor championship, scoring 4-4 in the final victory over Derry. Given that introduction, many would have expected a sudden impact at senior level but making that transition can often be difficult for young players.
However, one of Kerry’s more experienced players, Stephen O’Brien, admitted that Clifford settled right in.
“I know he’s only a young fella, but he doesn’t look young. He’s huge. He’s well able for the physical side of things. His ability is there for all to see. He really kicked on in the Super 8s for Kerry in the championship.”
“I think everyone inside there knew that was in him. Even when the games weren’t going as well in him, it doesn’t take a genius to tell that he’s a class footballer”, O’Brien continued.
“He told me before that he goes to a lot of club games. He has ideas about what way the ball is coming in and stuff like that and runs – he has brilliant movement off the ball. He clearly has a ridiculous football intelligence as well.”
The 27-year-old also revealed that Clifford has talents that stretch beyond the football field.
“He’s a mighty man altogether. In fairness to him he’s very down to earth. We were having a bit of a sing-song there and he’s unbelievable at singing as well so he just has it all. He won some golf tournament as well last year but he wasn’t eligible.”
“He’s just one of these fellas that has it all.”
“I’ll come back to ye if I find anything that he’s not good at!”
Clifford and his fellow young players, Seán O’Shea and Gavin White, for example, have one other major advantage over their more experienced counterparts – they have all tasted success at minor level under the new manager, Peter Keane, and are familiar with his style of management.
Although the departure of Eamonn Fitzmaurice was a huge blow to O’Brien, the Kenmare native is looking forward to a new and exciting chapter under Peter Keane’s tenure.
“He was a huge part of my career. When he came in in 2012 he revolutionized the whole set up. I was sad to see him go. I had the utmost respect for the man.”
“It was emotional when he announced his decision in the dressing room after the Kildare game.”
“Peter is a great tactician and has a good strength and conditioning and dietitian set up. From a football point of view, he wants the ball moved fast to the forwards, while also preaching the basic skills of the game.”
“Every year you play for Kerry you’re going to be very excited, but definitely this year there’s a buzz.”
The inter-county famine is about to end, giving way to a nine-week feast of Allianz Football League action between the weekend after next and the four divisional finals in Croke Park on March 30/31. The exciting programme features 116 games across the four divisions in a campaign which will mark the 27th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA as sponsor of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest-running sponsorships in Irish sport. In attendance at the Allianz Football League 2019 launch in Dublin were Ryan Wylie of Monaghan, Shane Walsh of Galway and Stephen O’Brien of Kerry.