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Marc Ó Sé admits that Kerry got rub of the green with final free against John Daly

Former Kerry footballer Marc Ó Sé at the media launch of GAAGO 2023 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

David Clifford© SPORTSFILE


Marc Ó Sé has acknowledged that Kerry got the ‘rub of the green’ when they were awarded a controversial free towards the end of this year’s All-Ireland final to edge the new champions ahead at a crucial time and give them momentum to finish strong.

It still took a nerveless kick from a difficult angle from David Clifford to put Kerry 0-17 to 0-16 ahead and from there on they dominated.

The decision to award a free in after referee Seán Hurson adjudged that Galway defender John Daly had grabbed Killian Spillane by the arm as he sought to break clear perplexed Tribe manager Pádraic Joyce. He, like quite a number of neutrals, felt Spillane had initiated the arm lock in the first place.

And Ó Sé, five-time All-Ireland winning defender with the Kingdom, is in agreement, suggesting it should have been a free against Kerry.

Ó Sé was speaking at last week’s launch of GAAGo’s 2023 championship coverage in his capacity as an analyst for the streaming service.

“I didn’t think it was a free. I thought it was a free out,” he said, adding that these incidents have a habit of balancing out.

To emphasise his point, he cited the free that Peter Crowley should have got but didn’t that tilted the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final Dublin’s way at a crucial late stage too.

“We should have got a free down the other end, Kevin McManamon was involved with Peter and we didn’t get the rub of the green. That’s how it works, you get it the next day.”

Ó Sé saw it as the “key moment in that game” but feels Kerry’s season, for all the wins they accumulated, balanced on a few very fine margins.

“Had Seánie O’Shea not kicked that point to win the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, you were looking at extra-time. Would Kerry have got over the Dubs in that extra-time period? They are questions that you’d definitely be wondering about.”

​Ó Sé has paid tribute to Clifford’s temperament in a 32-game season that has ended with a title from every county and club competition he contested with either Kerry, East Kerry or Fossa.

The 2007 Footballer of the Year came up against the incumbent while managing Listry against Fossa in the recent Kerry junior final and marvelled at his impact, even if it was expected and he and his team were on the receiving end.

“Everything he touches turns to gold really at the moment,” said Ó Sé. “He’s just a phenomenal player. What he did that day alone (against Listry) was just frightening, his skill-set is frightening, it’s on another level. I’ve been lucky enough to have played with the ‘Gooch’, I’ve marked Maurice Fitzgerald in county championship games but for me, what I have seen coming from this fella, it’s just on another level completely. His point-kicking in particular is just frightening.

“If I wanted a fella to get a goal for me, all day long it would be ‘Gooch’. What he could do with a ball was unbelievable but in terms of kicking the ball over the bar, I’ve never seen anything like what David Clifford is doing. And like, if you look at him, if you stand next to him, he’s a big, big guy, he’s 6’3.” So you have a bit of (Kieran) Donaghy and ‘Gooch’ all rolled into one. You’ve got this big target man inside. He’s got both feet, he can win his own ball, we’re just so lucky he’s from Kerry.”

Ó Sé sees his temperament shielding him from a “sticky patch” that he feels afflicts all players at some stage but the constant focus is something that is “bound to take its toll”.

“He has a great way about him. He’s not on any social media platform, I don’t think. He just goes about his business. He’s very down to earth and that’s how they would be as a family. I work with their uncle, Fergus, and I know their Dad, Dermot, and they’re just genuine down-to-earth GAA people. There was talk a few years ago that David was going to AFL. That was never going to happen. David Clifford was born to win All-Irelands. He’s fulfilling that now.

“Every player goes through their career and has a sticky patch. He hasn’t had that yet. I know even ‘Gooch’ was going through it maybe 2006, 2007. The great players obviously play through that and come out the other end. He hasn’t had that.

“But I’m sure it will happen at some stage where you have it. But his temperament has been fantastic, in terms of the way he deals with everyone, how he deals with the media, the way he deals with the fans.”

Not that they were too far away in 2022 but Ó Sé sees a renewed threat from Dublin in 2023 with Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey back and former manager Pat Gilroy offering a new sideline dynamic.

“You don’t want a situation in a management team where you have every fella agreeing. If you have a situation in a management team where you’re questioning, that’s a fantastic way to be and I’d say Kerry had that this year with Paddy Tally.

“I don’t think Paddy and Jack (O’Connor) agreed with everything but I think they came to an agreement and I think if anything we’ve noticed about Pat Gilroy, he’ll make those hard decisions like he did (before).”

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