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31st Jul 2023

Tomás Ó Sé pays incredible tribute to “absolute class acts” Paudie and David Clifford

Patrick McCarry

David Clifford

“David Clifford showed that he was human.”

Three points scored, a goal assist and fouled for two other frees that were dinked over to add to the Kerry tally. For most other forwards, that would have been a decent outing. For David Clifford – the man himself – it was not near enough.

No-one puts more pressure on Clifford to be the Kerry talisman than their very own captain. He has that self-confidence that sees him look completely at home in the tightest of situations and often sees him take on, and make, ambitious scores when he has options outside him.

On most days, it works a charm. On Sunday, with Mick Fitzsimons like a gnat,Lee Gannon and Davey Byrne buzzing nearby and slick ball-handling ad playing conditions at Croke Park, it was not ‘most days’.

The Kerry captain got a fine, early score from play but was restricted to a free for the rest of a flat first half. Kerry were in danger of registering just 0-4 in the opening 35 minutes until a sublime Clifford pass teed up Paul Geaney for a goal that nudged The Kingdom in front. He pointed from play, early in the second half, but was scoreless thereafter.

Every Clifford turnover, pass that was not spot-on or wide he kicked brought cheers from the Dublin fans and piled on the pressure. At full time, with Kerry handing back their crown to the Dubs, Clifford sank to the turf in shattered disbelief.

On The Sunday Game, later that day, Tomás Ó Sé captured what David Clifford and his brother, Paudie would be going through after the recent loss of their mother and seeing their county fall at the final hurdle.

David CliffordDavid Clifford reacts during the All-Ireland Senior Championship final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

Tomás Ó Sé on Paudie and David Clifford

Following Dublin’s 1-15 to 1-13 victory over Kerry, former Dubs midfielder Ciarán Whelan said Mick Fitzsimons had barely put a foot wrong against David Clifford and had made his opponent look human.

On The Sunday Game’s evening coverage of the final, Tomás Ó Sé took that human reckoning a bit further as he reflected on personal tragedy and team loss for the Clifford brothers. Highlighting the Clifford brothers’ playing on for the Kerry cause after the loss of their mother, in May, as one of his moments of the championship.

“To play so well, both of them on the day. They played a Munster final after their mum, Ellen, died. An unbelievable Kerry supporter. They honoured her that day. They were an absolute class act, and a credit to their club.

“Dermot, their dad, is an unbelievable Kerry supporter. Football can sometimes be an escape. They are a credit to their county, their club and their parish. They’ve been outstanding since then. Huge.

“You can guarantee, and I went through it myself, tonight they are suffering even more. It’s always a time, when you lose or you win, you miss those dearest to you. But I think the county stood up and there was never a question in doubt, with their mum dying, and they togged out for Kerry the following day. They are class in every way – on and off the pitch. They are a credit to the team and themselves.”

Former Mayo star Cora Staunton also picked out that Munster final, and the performance of the brothers, as her moment of the championship, praising their ‘coverage and bravery to come and tog out’. She also noted how Paudie scored a fine goal and David banked 2-6, while both ‘carried themselves with class’ since losing their mother.

Despite being on the losing team, the efforts of Paudie and David Clifford over the championship, and in the final, saw both included in the panels Team of the Year. James McCarthy edged David Clifford out for their Footballer of the Year, but host Jacqui Hurley said that vote was almost a 50/50 split.

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