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Despite all the attention, David Clifford remains totally at ease

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by Adam Moynihan

It's not something that most of us - the mere mortals of this world - have ever had to worry about, but being double-marked looks like a complete pain in the arse. It's annoying enough having one sticky back breathing on your neck without having another spoilsport blocking your supply lines from the front.

Kerry superstar David Clifford isn't one of us, though, so naturally enough he's enjoying it.

Speaking via Zoom from Croke Park (the Fossa native was there to launch SuperValu's #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign), Clifford was typically breezy when it came to the topic of rivals doing anything and everything in their power to stop him.

"That’s something we’ve started to come across and will continue to come across," the 23-year-old said when asked about Cork playing two defenders on him in last weekend’s Munster semi-final.

"It’s [about] trying to find solutions, trying to have as many scoring threats as we can. They can’t double-mark everyone, d’you know what I mean?

"It’s obviously tricky and that brings its challenges but trying to find ways around it is enjoyable too."

Clifford is arguably the standout Gaelic football talent of the modern era and witnessing him in full flow must be one of the most joyous experiences in sport. It therefore stands to reason that seeing him getting corralled and penned in by two opponents is one of the most horrid.

Watching him the last day was like watching a lion in a zoo. It’s always cool to see the king of the jungle but keeping him in a cage just doesn’t sit right.

Of course, Cork are perfectly entitled to set up however they want. And for much of the match - the first half in particular - their gameplan worked. Clifford was on the periphery, limited to a single point from play. As the soon-to-be-qualified PE teacher alluded to today, the onus is on Kerry to find other ways to score when they simply cannot get the ball into his hands.

The fact that Kerry’s other forwards scored 0-18 against Cork shows that they are capable of doing it. The fact that Kerry failed to get over the line when Clifford was sidelined for extra time against Tyrone last September shows that they still have a point to prove against the bigger teams.

Clifford was at ease during his 22-minute chat with myself and other print journalists, deftly sidestepping potentially loaded questions like they were hapless defenders clutching at the air around him. A dummy solo past the championship structure debate. A pirouette around the Kerry captaincy issue. A quick turn of pace left my query about the significance of potentially winning this year’s All-Ireland for dead.

He is certainly a lot more comfortable in front of the media now than the David Clifford who burst onto the senior intercounty scene in 2018. Back then, he was wide-eyed and slightly nonplussed by it all. Now, he pretty much has it (us?) all figured out.

But there was still plenty to feed on from today’s briefing. He spoke of his infant son, Óigí, and how becoming a father has put life into perspective for him.

“It’s a change but it’s massively enjoyable. There’s great fun attached to it. It feels like sport is everything and we put everything into it but health and family take a priority."

When asked if seeing his child after a disappointing performance helps, the former MTU Kerry student said that it does. “Óigí doesn’t tend to be too worried about whether we’ve won or not!”

He also spoke about avoiding the hype. Many observers rate him as the best player in the country. Others (including this writer) have publicly stated that he could well be the best they’ve ever seen.

“I haven’t paid too much attention to it, or haven’t seen a whole pile of it,” Clifford insisted. “I’m not on social media really and that’s probably a good thing.”

Perhaps most interesting of all were his insights into his own thought processes. Where does his focus lie? Does he always have football on the brain, or can he switch off?

“I’m just trying to focus on a game-to-game basis. There’s still plenty of stuff to work on.

“Throughout the league you’re just trying to get minutes into the legs, and things come so thick and fast that you don’t have much time to think. The time between the games [during championship] is good to reflect.

“[But] it can be hard to put games to the back of your mind. I’m trying to work on that – to try and be focussed when you need to be focussed and to step away when you need to step away.”

Is there room for improvement in his game?

“Yeah, 100%. Trying to get that consistency of performance is a big focus for me.”

Most would argue that he has been pretty consistent so far in his young career. If he can make improvements in that department, keeping him in his cage might become a three-man job.

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Rebel lights delight for Killarney star

By Con Dennehy The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball […]

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By Con Dennehy

The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball championships.

Attracting all the leading players in Ireland, it was Sarah Dineen, the Spa/Killarney player who shot out the Rebel lights in Conna with a phenomenal display of handball.

Competing in the highly competitive Ladies Challenger championship, the Killarney player, who took up the sport just 18 months ago, had the perfect start in the competition defeating the home town favourite Agnes Hurley from Conna on a 21-20 scoreline following an energy sapping and close encounter that hung in the balance to the final ace.

In her second game she took on the challenge of Nolwenn Even from St Brigids where her skill, superior fitness and movement on the court resulted in the 21-12 victory and a place in the prestigious final.

“The final was always going to be a difficult game not least playing local girl Kate O’Riordan from Conna. I concentrated on my serve and kill shots which ensured we shared the aces early in the game. It was a difficult game with the home supporters out in force to cheer on their local hero. However, I played well and secured a 21-11 victory. This was the second time this title came to Spa Killarney following the 2022 win by Aoife Walsh in Northern Ireland,” said Sarah, who is currently chairperson of the Killarney Camogie Club.

A native of Westmeath, Sarah (46) runs a jewellery business in Killarney and lives in Rathmore. No stranger to competitive sport she played camogie for Westmeath and Leinster and also won an Intermediate championship Gaelic football medal in Westmeath.

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Survey reveals Kerry fans’ expectations for 2023

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A start-of-season survey carried out by the Killarney Advertiser has revealed Kerry supporters’ expectations ahead of the 2023 campaign, which gets underway on Sunday with a league match against Donegal.

Kerry enjoyed a perfect year in 2022 as Jack O’Connor led his team to glory in the National League, Munster Championship and All-Ireland Championship. It would be an incredible achievement to replicate that success again this time around, but some supporters seem to think that it can be done.

Around 73% of those polled believe that Kerry will reach another All-Ireland final, with the majority (42%) predicting that Sam Maguire will be staying in the Kingdom for another year at least. Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) think that Kerry will fall at the semi-final stage, however, with the remainder (4%) anticipating a quarter-final or round robin exit.

1. How far will Kerry go in the championship?

All-Ireland round robin – 1%

All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%

All-Ireland semi-final – 23%

All-Ireland final (runners-up) – 31%

All-Ireland final (winners) – 42%

That’s what supporters expect to happen, but what would they be happy with? When asked what would constitute a “good year” for Kerry in 2023, 54% stated that only an All-Ireland will do. A further 32% said they would be content with another All-Ireland final appearance. So, effectively, the vast majority of Kerry supporters (86%) won’t be happy unless their team at least makes it to the All-Ireland final on July 30.

2. Kerry need to ___________ for 2023 to be classed as a “good” year.

Reach the All-Ireland round robin stage – 1%

Reach the All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%

Reach the All-Ireland semi-final – 10%

Reach the All-Ireland final – 32%

Win the All-Ireland final – 54%

Neighbours Cork gave Kerry a real hiding in the McGrath Cup at the beginning of this month but it appears as though fans from this side of the county bounds are placing little stock in that particular result. Over 96% of supporters expect Kerry to win their provincial championship. A very small minority (3%) are fearing the worst, i.e. Cork winning Munster.

3. Who will win the Munster Championship?

Kerry – 96%

Cork – 3%

Someone else – 1%

Expectations are lower for the immediate future, however. With several players out injured and others – including star player David Clifford – being rested, most fans reckon Kerry will finish mid-table in Division 1 of the National League. Over half of the readers who responded to our survey (52%) think Kerry will finish 3rd or 4th in the eight-team pool, with roughly one-in-five expecting a 5th or 6th place finish.

Despite the lengthy list of absentees, 21% of supporters are still optimistic that Kerry can retain their Division 1 title. At the other end of the scale, around 1% think Kerry will be relegated.

4. Where will Kerry finish in Division 1 of the National League?

1st or 2nd (winners) – 21%

1st or 2nd (runners-up) – 8%

3rd or 4th – 52%

5th or 6th – 18%

7th or 8th (relegated) – 1%

When asked which opponent they are most wary of heading into the new season, the vast majority of Kerry fans singled out the same Division 2 team.

5. Which opposition team should Kerry be most worried about in 2023?

Dublin – 78%

Tyrone – 7%

Armagh – 6%

Cork – 3%

Derry – 3%

Mayo – 2%

Galway – 1%

Jack O’Connor’s side travel to Ballybofey on Sunday for their first competitive outing of the season. Throw-in is at 2pm with the match being televised live on TG4.

Follow @AdamMoynihan for all the latest Kerry GAA news

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