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Cora Takes The Road Less Travelled With The Nation’s Blessing

cora staunton

As Dublin secured an historic third successive All-Ireland at the expense of Mayo in Croke Park last month, the nation, with the capital as the sole exception, sympathised with those men from the West who had suffered once more on the grandest stage.

A second one-point loss in two years was the major talking point to emerge from the game.

However, prior to the classic, a young man from Fossa in Kerry stole some of the headlines. David Clifford scored an incredible 4-04 in the All-Ireland minor final as he captained Kerry to a fourth consecutive minor title.

This was no one-off performance. Clifford has been a man to watch for some time now. He burst onto our screens in 2016, scoring 2-05 in Croker as St Brendan’s claimed the Hogan Cup. Aged just 17, Clifford would be instrumental as Kerry stormed to a then third successive title in 2016.

As captain this season, Clifford amassed an amazing tally of 6-41 to guide his side over the line. In his two years at minor he amassed an amazing 10-61 for Kerry. His exhibition in the final nearly received as much coverage in the national media as did Dublin’s three in a row triumph.

With undoubted comparisons to the Kerry great Maurice Fitzgerald with their similar elegance and stature, people and the media alike looked upon this teenager as the future of Gaelic football.

Electric Ireland Munster GAA Minor Football Championship Semi-Final, Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork 10/5/2017

However, soon the reality sunk in around the Kingdom that their newest star may be tempted to go professional in the AFL. The boy was born to play football, but the realisation that it may not be Gaelic soon came crashing down. Kerry had already lost 2015 minor captain Mark O’Connor to Geelong in the AFL.

Surely Clifford wouldn’t follow suit.

The people of Kerry used various platforms to demand that the young man stay put in Ireland and pursue his dream of wearing the green and gold of the Kingdom. Former players joined the petition to keep Clifford at home.

In the intervening weeks, however, it seems like Clifford will refuse any attempts to bring him to Australia with the man himself speaking about the challenge he will face to break into the senior squad.

The weekend after Clifford’s exploits, Cora Staunton played in her seventh All-Ireland final as her Mayo side were beaten by a terrific Dublin side. The Carnacon woman was bidding to win a fifth All-Ireland medal with Mayo in what has been an incredible career.

Staunton, who made her debut for Mayo at the age of 14, is arguably the greatest ladies footballer of all time. Her scoring prowess is well documented. Since scoring 0-10 on her debut, she has made a record 66 consecutive starts for Mayo. In that time, she has scored an incredible 59-476.

Her total of 653 points means she averages just under ten points a game. Her male contemporaries could only dream of such tallies. To put it into perspective, Colm Cooper, one of the greatest ever players, is the all-time championship top scorer with an average of just over four points a game.

And so, after suffering the heartbreaking All-Ireland loss, many feared that it would be the last we saw of Staunton in Croke Park. After souldering for 21 years, no-one would have blamed the stalwart for calling it a day. As things have panned out, it seems as if we may have seen the last of Staunton in the Mayo jersey but not due to retirement.

Less than a week ago, it emerged that Staunton had been selected by Western Sydney Giants in the Australian Rules Football Ladies draft. In the expanding AFLW league, Staunton became the first overseas player to be drafted. This was recognition for such brilliance. In the second year of the AFLW, Staunton will be a key name is the development of the competition.

When the news first emerged the immediate reaction around the nation was one of thanks and gratitude for Staunton who has been a symbol of all that is great about the women’s game for over two decades.

Unlike the response that David Clifford received after rumours of a move to Australia, Staunton was congratulated and commended for her decision to move. Staunton has given her all to the Mayo cause for the last 20 years and no one can begrudge her for taking the opportunity to try her hand at something new.

As for Mayo, the AFLW operates as an eight-week season starting in January. There is hope from all in the West that Staunton will commit to the Mayo ladies football team for another season when she makes her way home.

Maybe if Clifford can lead Kerry to four senior All-Ireland’s he will be encouraged to move abroad.

For the moment however, he like the rest of us will watch with interest as Staunton takes on Australia.

Jack Neville, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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