David Clifford has to learn to turn the other cheek if he's to realise his true potential
At times I feel like I'm spinning around in the machine that coughs out the lotto numbers.
But instead of balls swirling around in my head it's all the GAA talking points.
Where do I start?
Let’s begin with David Clifford’s red card in the Kerry Championship.
Clifford is the GAA version of Ronaldo or Messi, but unlike the soccer mega stars he has yet to reach his peak.
He is still learning his trade – particularly in terms of temperament. His dismissal in the East Kerry v St Kieran’s championship quarter-final demonstrated that he can ‘be got at’.
When he contested the red card I was concerned the County Board might pull a stroke.
They did so back in 2002 when they cleared the then-Kerry captain Darragh Ó Sé to play in the All-Ireland semi-final, even though he had received a red card in a club game.
The decision did not reflect well on the board.
This time they allowed justice to take its course. Clifford’s red card was upheld and he missed East Kerry’s semi-final victory.
The episode is a valuable lesson for Clifford which I know he will learn from.
Nowadays, defenders are akin to altar boys in terms of their behaviour.
Back in the seventies, when I started my career, football was pretty lawless, particularly at club level.
As the great John B Keane wrote at the time, the most dangerous animal on the planet was a junior football corner-back with varicose veins.
So called hatchet men populated most teams. I lost count of the number of times my testicles were squeezed, I was punched off the ball or spat at.
I never retaliated or raised my fist to an opponent on the field even though I often had just cause.
So my advice to David Clifford and all other forwards who feel they are being unfairly targeted is to ignore the provocation.
Once you retaliate the penetrator has won. It means you have lost focus. Your marker now has the psychological edge.
My simple rules were (1) constant movement – it is more difficult to hit a moving target; (2) getting on the ball as much as possible; and (3) most importantly of all – scoring.
This was the best answer to bully-boy tactics.
I’m sure Dublin’s Bernard Brogan was subjected to lots of illegal attention too but he survived to become one of the top ten corner-forwards in the modern era.
His key qualities were game intelligence, movement off the ball and his finishing.
Like the majority of top footballers who retire nowadays he has published the obligatory autobiography.
Alas he doesn’t reveal much about the inner workings of Jim Gavin’s five-in-a-row-winning squad. Instead readers have to make do with a few snippets of detail.
The circle of trust still exists even for retired Dublin footballers.
Brogan was a guest on the Late Late Show last weekend. His interview with host Ryan Tubridy was nondescript.
But pray tell me whose idea was it and why did Bernard agree to do a bleep test while the programme continued on the air?
For a guy who is very media savvy it was baffling and amounted to car crash TV. I doubt if it will help to shift many books.
I pride myself on being fair-minded so it’s only proper to set the record straight about the worst club match I have witnessed in 2020.
Top of the list was the Kilcoole v Mayobridge championship game in Down.
Well, in the interest of balance and before I’m accused of bias by my friends in Ulster, last weekend’s Kerry’s championship produced an absolute dog’s dinner of a game between East Kerry and St Brendan’s.
And it had nothing to do with negative tactics. Instead, the players struggled to execute basic skills like passing, shooting and kicking, even though 25 of them had worn a county jersey at some point in their careers.
The scoring rate was appalling, with less than 30 percent of chances being converted. No wonder St Brendan’s ultimately lost – they used ten forwards who between them scored one point from play.
So I apologise to the footballers of Kilcoole and Mayobridge. They no longer played in the worst game of football I witnessed in 2020. The bogey prize now resides with East Kerry v St Brendan’s.
But such is the unpredictability of Gaelic football that the second Kerry semi-final played 24 hours later between Mid Kerry and Dr Crokes produced the best game of club football I’ve witnessed this year.
As a contest it had everything, which merely reinforces my long-argued view that there is nothing wrong with the game of football so long as teams adopt the right attitude.
Granted there were 20 minutes of extra-time played but the scoring statistics sum up the quality of the contest.
We witnessed 45 scores, with Mid-Kerry prevailing by a point (3-20 to 3-19). Between them the two teams hit 6-33 from play.
This was Gaelic football at its exhilarating best. Hopefully somebody will produce a DVD of the game. It is definitely worth watching.
I also tuned into last weekend’s two Dublin semi-finals.
Frankly, having watched the majority of Dublin’s club championship games this year I’ve been very disappointed with the standard of football.
Granted all teams are very fit, very well organised defensively – but up front it’s a different story.
I’ve seen little evidence of teams having a coherent attacking plan. Instead they focus on neutralising the opposition.
The individual standard of the forwards I’ve seen has been quite disappointing and compares unfavourably with Kerry.
The Kingdom has an abundance of top class forwards – we could export some. I counted at least 12 who would contest for places on the county full forward line.
Overall, while Dublin and Kerry are the leading two inter-county sides, the same could not be said about their respective county championships.
The Tyrone championship is miles ahead of the rest in terms of quality and competitiveness, while the Mayo championship is second best.
Regardless of standards overall, the club championships have been a roaring success.
Everybody involved has stepped up to the plate, displaying admirable leadership. They have led by example and, in doing so, ensured that the 2020 All-Ireland series can be played.
I would plead, however, with the GAA powers to revisit their decision to scrap the provincial and All-Ireland club championships this year.
The decision was made when Covid-19 was rampant throughout the country. It was probably made in haste, though in good faith.
As a reward for their sterling work the clubs deserve their day in the sun.
Perhaps the competition could be played in the form of a blitz tournament but I believe it ought to be looked at again.
Of course no column would be complete without a reference to Covid-19.
For months I have been critical of the Government’s response to the pandemic.
The virus is going to be here for a long time and the Government has finally conceded that life has to go on – which means balancing risk and reward.
For that reason I whole heartedly welcome the Government’s new road map which was announced last Tuesday.
It’s not the best plan ever constructed and, yet again, it was poorly delivered. But at least it recognises that a one-size fits all approach does not work.
We have got to recognise that the Government itself cannot solve the problem. As a nation we have to take collective responsibility and work together
I also welcome the Government’s decision to provide funding to the GAA to help them run the All-Ireland series.
As Taoiseach Micheál Martin said running the championship demonstrates that as a country we are fighting Covid-19.
As a passionate GAA man I am delighted that the GAA has decided to go ahead with the championship. Hopefully, bigger crowds will be allowed to attend games once it kicks off.
But what has really made my day is that the GAA has finally grasped the opportunity to take ownership of the out-of-control inter-county training juggernaut and rein it in.
Better taking action now than when virtually every county board is bankrupt.