David Clifford sent off for focusing on the game instead of pulling jerseys
David Clifford is one of the coolest customers around.
Jersey tugs, skint heels and verbals are an all too familiar tale for the most marked man in Gaelic football, but it says it all about the Fossa club man that you will rarely, if ever see him getting involved in off the ball flash-points.
Remonstrating just isn't his thing. Putting up a fight is pointless because that's exactly what the pumped up defender wants you to do. So instead, Clifford just puts the head down and jogs away.
Watch any of his games and you'll see it. A defender smiling, prodding and poking, just desperate for a reaction of some sort but Clifford just breezes past them with a playful smile. This isn't his game.
Everyone can talk but it's another level up when you can let the football make your point for you, and that's the Clifford school of thought. For an hour and five minutes, this was just another David Clifford special up in Edendork.
In the first half, he kicked two wondrous scores but it was the work-rate and the leadership that stood out most. It's uncommon for the most skilful players to be the hardest workers but Clifford is one-in-a-lifetime. On 20 minutes, a Tyrone defender dawdled and Clifford dispossessed like your tigerish corner back, before somehow summoning the energy to beat another player before sending Paul Geaney clean through. Geaney should have scored, but there was no blame game from Clifford, he just applauded and moved on.
You know a lad is special when they throw in a weak foot solo for the craic every now and again 👌
Class act Clifford with the usual 🏐🏐pic.twitter.com/VswwdWZjNC
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) February 9, 2020
In the second, it was a different story.
After a sluggish first half, Mickey Harte's side awoke and from four points down to level scores in no time, they were beginning to get the taste for a sweet home win over Kerry.
It's been a great week for them, with Cathal McShane deciding to stay put in Ireland but when the sun shines, you have to make hay and they felt like kicking on further.
Kerry were struggling but David Clifford had different ideas. On 45 minutes, he clipped his third of the day as another patient Kerry move ended in their number 14 showing out in front of Ronan McNamee and finishing with aplomb. Level scores again.
Tyrone wouldn't lie down though and they were taking ownership of Shane Ryan's kick-outs. McCurry nailed another but Clifford stood up again, showing, calling and winning. He earned the mark and stuck it from the guts of 40 yards at an angle.
It's hard to tell if Kerry would have come back if Clifford had remained on the pitch but he would have made a fair attempt for them. 63 minutes was when this scandal started. Clifford won a free out on the stand-side after some sheer grafting, when it looked like the ball had slipped away from him.
Out of his range, he headed for the Tyrone goals and while the cameras didn't follow him the whole way, he would have had no reason and indeed no form for getting involved.
What the cameras did show was Ben McDonnell gripping the Kerryman in a headlock and pulling him to the ground. A search of David Clifford's name on Twitter will show you that much.
And then the Longford referee Fergal Kelly did what referees are doing too often nowadays. He issued both McDonnell and Clifford with yellow cards and as it was Clifford's second of the day (his first was harmless as well, as he complained about Niall Morgan for taking too long over his frees), it meant the end of his game.
This was far from an isolated incident over the weekend, with Peter Harte getting sold a trick earlier on in this game. Paul Mannion was similarly targeted, when he came on for Dublin against Monaghan.
You can't blame men like Clifford, Harte and Mannion when referees and officials keep getting the wool pulled over their eyes.
This yellow card for both players cop-out needs to stop soon.
This sledging and jersey pulling from defenders can't be laughed at any longer.