superstars | 

How the Clifford brothers are taking the Kingdom’s never-ending schedule in their stride

Brothers Paudie and David Clifford with their PwC All-Star awards. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Paudie Clifford in action for East Kerry in Sunday's Kerry County SFC final. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Colm KeysIndependent.ie

The never-ending season for the Cliffords continues. On Sunday, older brother Paudie teamed up with his superstar younger sibling to land a third Kerry county championship with East Kerry in four years.

David took most of the plaudits for a spectacular 1-9 in one of the great individual displays in a county final but a little lost in that is how Paudie set up 1-3 of that with sublime long-range passes as well as landing two points of his own. The telepathy between them, so evident when they’re in green and gold, is even more stated when they’re in the red of East Kerry.

But the shine from another Bishop Moynihan Cup success will quickly recede as the brothers focus on Fossa’s premier junior championship challenge with a semi-final against Ardfert next weekend.

For them, that will feel like the real business in hand, however, even though there was no mistaking Paudie’s passion for the district concept after Sunday’s win over Mid Kerry, a result that, combined with Austin Stacks’ demotion to intermediate, has thrown fresh focus on the balance between Kerry clubs and amalgamations in the county championship, currently at eight each.

Naturally, Paudie is a big supporter of a system that offers every player a chance to play in the showpiece competition. “It can be tough to put it together but in fairness, everyone when they came in from the start just wanted to work, we were all fighting for the one goal,” he said.

Yet you can’t escape the feeling in Kerry that a county final between two district teams can lack some atmosphere and even elements of passion. The Legion and Rathmore players, six starters in all, have intermediate semi-finals next weekend while Fossa’s celebrated pair are also engaged as they seek to improve their club’s status.

​For Paudie Clifford, the prospect of more games in what is already a bulging 2022 catalogue between Kerry (three McGrath Cup, eight league and five championship), Fossa (four premier junior) and East Kerry (six in the county championship) is an exciting one.

Fossa could win the Kerry premier junior championship and once they hit Munster and beyond, the Kingdom’s strike rate is exceptional at that level.

His thoughts have already turned to pre-season. “I’ve a lot of things to work on and improve on which is exciting for myself,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a big off-season ahead to be ready for next year and hopefully be better again. I enjoy the grind of getting myself ready. I probably should take off more time than I do but I enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, Shane Ryan, one of 11 first-time football All-Stars, is also enjoying the relentlessness of the season as he looks forward to an intermediate semi-final next weekend for Rathmore against Beaufort, fresh from his contribution to East Kerry’s latest success.

“There is no such thing as an off-season in Kerry but I don’t want to complain because we’ve been very successful in anything we have been involved in this year and when you are winning it’s easy,” he said.

Ryan attributes his rise as a goalkeeper to the quality of defences he has in front of him. “The clean sheets (just three goals conceded in 13 league and championship matches for Kerry), there’s very little credit to me. I’m only as good as the fellas outside me.

“I’ve grown into it more,” he added. “Goalkeeping is a lot about experience and 95pc of goalkeeping is played mentally. And you can only gain that through experience on the field and being under that pressure in front of big crowds in Croke Park.”


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