My experience of marking David Clifford
A story from a former Dublin underage player.
It was about two years ago.
It was a challenge game for the Dublin under-16’s and we were facing Kerry.
Deep down I had a feeling we’d get beaten, Kerry is always good for producing good, young players and winning their fourth consecutive minor title this year proved that.
But, at the same time, we’re Dublin and our under-21 and senior teams have been dominating the last few years so there was definitely no shortage of belief.
At that age, you never know who’s who. Maybe in your county you know the good lads from the clubs you play week in, week out but you’d have no way of knowing how good some 16-year-old from Kerry was.
So, for me, it was the same as any other match really. Playing in the development squads, I’ve come up against some really good players in my time but I’d always back myself. Sometimes someone gets the better of you and sometimes you get the better of them, that’s football.
In my 10 years or so, I’ve never been completely blown away… until I marked David Clifford.
I’m not a tall guy, at the time I was probably about 5'6 and was thrown in fullback. For someone my size I’m quite good at winning a high ball and generally disrupting the full forward so even when I mark big guys I tend to do okay.
So, when six-foot-something built-like-a-tank Clifford came to mark me, I was still confident. Believe it or not.
And then the first ball was put in on top of us and there was no contest. He took it one-handed and brushed past me like I wasn’t there and banged it past the goalkeeper.
David Clifford is having a once-in-a-lifetime game. 2-5 for the Kerry man as St. Brendan's win the Hogan Cup 💪👊 pic.twitter.com/6UfFuHZyJA
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) April 2, 2016
A bad start, but surely he couldn’t sustain it for the whole match... right? Nah, he did.
Those 60 minutes were the longest of my life. Every time the Fossa man got the ball he scored. There’d be high balls in and he’d win them, he’d go out the pitch and attack from 45 metres out and stick points over with ease off his left and right.
There is no way to describe how good he was but all the attributes were there. He just had, and still has, everything in his favour - skill, speed , strength and size.
I remember going in at half time and he had already scored 2-6 from play and we decided to double mark him but it didn’t matter. Two men or 20 men, they couldn’t have stopped him that day. It was a sight to behold.
Somehow I stayed on the pitch for the duration. I reckon our manager thought it’d just knock my confidence further if he took me off and the game was dead and buried anyway.
David finished the game with 3-10 to his name. It was probably just another game for him.
My confidence was knocked badly but after seeing him doing something similar in the Hogan Cup and then throughout minor made me feel a little bit better. This guy was special.
I can safely say that I have never marked a talent quite like him and would be surprised if I ever will again, there’s no doubting that he worked hard to be as good as he is but sometimes someone is just a born talent and unfortunately for me I had to mark him.
This story was ghostwritten by Darragh Culhane and the Dublin player in question wishes the remain anonymous for obvious reasons.