"Isn't it weird the standards we hold this fella to already, he's got that aura of a coming great"
David Clifford was born for the biggest stage.
17-years of age, he got his first run out on Croke Park. St Brendan's, that famed Killarney nursery were in the Hogan Cup final and they were up against the might of St Pat's Maghera.
Some would say there was pressure on Clifford, the Killarney talisman and their precarious number 11. He didn't see it that way. 2-5 that day. A performance we dubbed as 'once-in-a-lifetime.'
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
How wrong were we. In the meantime, Clifford would go onto win two All-Ireland minor championships. In his final year, his sciring stats were outrageous. The 4-4 in the final against Derry, a fitting end to one of the great minor careers.
Vs. Clare - 1-5 - Munster minor quarter final.
Vs. Cork - 2-8 Munster semi-final.
Vs. Clare - 0-6 Munster final.
Vs. Louth - 0-9 All-Ireland quarter.
Vs. Cavan - 1-9 All-Ireland semi.
Vs. Derry - 4-4 All-Ireland final.
They were already dreaming of this lad on the senior inside line down in the Kingdom. He didn't take any time to settle in.
The debut came in the first round of the League against Donegal the following year. Eamon Fitzmaurice wasn't wasting any time.
Clifford fared well that day and his first season in the big time was smoother than any player just out of minor before him. An All-Star and Young Footballer of the Year. Special things.
This year has been just as breath-taking. Man-of-the-match awards throughout the Munster championships and the Super 8s, when Kerry were struggling against Tyrone in the semi he stepped up with three huge points from play.
The Fossa man is made of the right stuff.
In Sunday's All-Ireland final, the 20-year-old's first, Clifford was hugely effective. Two magical points from play, his man sent off before half-time and a penalty won. Fair clipping.
But with a few shots tailing wide, the critics were out and it just goes to show the superstar standards this fella is judged at. It's Joe Canning levels of expectation.
"The general consensus was that his shooting was way off and that David Clifford didn't have one of his finest hours," said Colm Parkinson on Thursday's GAA Hour Show.
"The man is 20. He got fouled for the penalty, he got Jonny Cooper sent off, he roasted Jonny Cooper which we don't see all that often, he got fouled for two tap-over frees and he got two points...
David Clifford's first All Ireland final, at age 20:
Fouled for penalty
Fouled twice for free kicks in front of the posts
Tormented Jonny Cooper to the point that Cooper was deservedly sent off after 30 minutes
Scored two points from play
And he only played ok. Frightening.
— Cathal (@cathalfla) September 2, 2019
"Isn't it weird the standards we hold this fella to already. That is as solid an All-Ireland final, it's solid for most players, he's just got that Joe Canning aura of a coming great, that this isn't good enough for him. We want to see him rattle a top corner and not miss..."
Conan Doherty is comfortable with these high standards. He reckons they're fitting for a lad who has the potential to become one of the game's greatest.
"In my head, he's going to be the best player ever so it's like, 'this is the time now, this is the All-Ireland final, put those shots over.' I know that it's at a higher standard to other 20-year-olds but I know he's going to be at a higher standard forever anyway..."
Conor Heneghan reckons Clifford is the type of lad who will be unaffected by the criticism.
"I think he holds himself to them higher standards anyway, there were loads of positives, but I'd say he's the type of fella who holds himself to such high standards that he'd be comfortable with criticism..."