Search icon


24th Jul 2022

Today was the day when the boy became king

Niall McIntyre

Kerry 0-20 Galway 0-16

Low lie the fields of Athenry…

There are 28 minutes gone in the first half and that famous, fantastic anthem is ringing around Drumcondra. Music to Galway’s ears. Kerry are on the ball and even though the scores are level, even though they’re the favourites and even though they’ve had their moments, you can’t escape the feeling that, from their perspective, and in many ways, this garden has been rosier.

Paul Conroy dispossesses a Kerryman at that very moment and, as Galway regain the possession of the ball, all around him, their voices get even louder. Where once we watched the small free birds fly…

This tune is doing nothing for Kerry.

Paul Geaney has kicked two woeful wides. Sean O’Shea and Paudie Clifford have barely touched the ball and, with Patrick Kelly giving him a bit too much to think about, Gavin White hasn’t gone running. Not even once. They’re still singing in the stands…

The sky is still blue and, of course, it goes without saying that, even in the back-drop of one beautiful chorus, a certain Mr. David Clifford is still doing his thing. He’s the only man that can shut them up.

Twice, within the space of ten minutes, the Fossa freak has almost jumped out of the stadium to claim marks that he would soon be converting but Sean Kelly has been keeping a close eye on him. And, with his forward forays, the biggest danger-man in Ireland has had some food for thought himself.

Down the other end, Shane Walsh is cooking like spuds on a hot range. He has Tom O’Sullivan for company but in the mood he’s in, and with the bit between those teeth, that only seems to be a temporary and optional arrangement. That’s because, on a whim at the drop of a shoulder, Walsh puts the head down, he throws a few dummies and within seconds, Tom O’Sullivan is doing nothing only chasing Kilkerrin-Clonberne shadows.

He has six points kicked by the break, the third of those an absolute breath-taker, and it’s fast becoming one of the great All-Ireland final displays. His mentor and role model Padraic Joyce looks on from the sideline with a smile. He was up to something similar 21 years ago on this very same day.

Cillian McDaid was just as inspired, the best midfielder in the country kicking 0-4 while, just behind him, John Daly was again kick-passing the ball like an absolute dream.

Into the dressing room 0-8 0-7 ahead, and PJ is certainly the happier of the two.

But at the same time, as he mulls over a one point deficit that could easily be two or three, Jack O’Connor won’t be too displeased and it comes as no real surprise, 15 minutes later, when Kerry come out for the second half looking like a completely different team.

O’Connor always has the look of a man with a few tricks up his sleeve, and on the biggest day of all, Killian Spillane is his trump card. Maybe it was written in the stars that, on the day his famous uncle Pat retired from the Sunday Game, that Killian would follow in the family footsteps.

The stars were certainly aligning today because, as the teams went down the stretch, and when the game was there to be won, Killian was one of the men who won it for Kerry with two crucial points to finished the job for Kerry.

“My father never saw us play, the three sons. They have 19 All-Ireland medals and his two grand-sons today, Killian and Adrian, have two more,” Pat said, with tears running down his face on The Sunday Game.

“He’d have been a proud man to see his family get 21 All-Ireland senior medals. He’d have been a proud man.”

By this stage now, Galway were kicking wides and they were running out of ideas as, down the other end of the field, whether it was from frees or from open play, David Clifford just couldn’t miss. To be fair to him, Sean Kelly did as well as anyone could but this was Clifford’s destiny.

“This is something that I’ve dreamt of all my life,” he said afterwards.

And, as the Fields of Athenry was replaced by the Rose of Tralee, it was clear, no matter where you looked, that today was the day when the boy became king.


S Ryan; G O’Sullivan (0-1), J Foley, T O’Sullivan; B Ó Beaglaoich, T Morley, G White (0-1); D Moran, J Barry; D O’Connor (0-1), S O’Shea (0-3f), S O’Brien (0-1); P Clifford (0-2), D Clifford (0-8, 0-3f, 0-2m), P Geaney (0-1m)


Killiane Spillane (0-2) for Geaney (HT), Adrian Spillane for Moran, Jack Savage for Clifford (blood 43-46), Micheál Burns for Stephen O’Brien (56), Paul Murphy for Brian Ó Beaglaoich (63)


C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn (0-1); D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy (0-1); P Conroy, C McDaid (0-4); P Kelly, M Tierney, J Heaney (0-1); R Finnerty, D Comer, S Walsh (0-9, 0-4f, 0-1 45)

Subs: Finian O’Laoi for Finnerty (46), Cathal Sweeney for Paul Conroy (57), Eoin Finnerty for Johnny Heaney (62)

  • The brilliance of James McCarthy
  • Why nobody can do what Aaron Gillane can do
  • Playing GAA in America for a summer

Watch these videos and more in our player below.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?