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Exclusive: Paudie Clifford reflects on “emotional” All-Ireland Junior Club final

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by Adam Moynihan

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this evening (Wednesday), Fossa captain Paudie Clifford reflected on an emotional All-Ireland Junior Club final against Stewartstown of Tyrone.

Fossa emerged victorious on a scoreline of 0-19 to 1-13 but much of the talk in the aftermath has been focused on ill-discipline. Clifford was one of six players to be sent off in the second half, although he himself was the victim of arguably the worst offence: a vicious elbow to the face in the first minute of stoppage time.

Thankfully, the Kerry star was not badly injured in the incident.

“I’m good,” Clifford confirms. “I’ve a cut on the lip. Probably lucky, really. But no, I’m okay.

“David touched on it (in his post-match interview on TG4), there was a lot of emotion at the end of the game. There was a lot at stake.

“These things happen.”

The elder Clifford is still disappointed about his own red card, however. Not over the fact that he was sent off per se, but for the explanation given by referee Thomas Murphy.

“The referee said it was an eye gouge and sure it clearly wasn’t an eye gouge. That’s why I was so annoyed. That’s why I said it in the speech. I was seriously annoyed that he said it was an eye gouge.”

Although the video footage indicates that Clifford has right on his side, he does clearly put his hand in his opponent’s face. If the referee had said that the red was for a hand to the face, would he have accepted that?

“I wouldn’t have had any arguments with that really. It was the fact that he said it was an eye gouge that I wasn’t happy with.”

As for the aforementioned acceptance speech, an unorthodox address in which he said “well done” to the match officials before claiming that he shouldn’t have been red carded, Clifford simply puts it down to the immense “emotion” he was feeling at the time.

SUCCESS

Sunday’s victory marked a glorious end to what was a memorable season for Fossa. The relatively small club on the outskirts of Killarney sampled unprecedented success, something Clifford attributes to his hardworking teammates.

“Winning an All-Ireland seems so far away at the start of the year. You have to get out of your group and try to win Kerry, and even then you still have a long way to go.

“After all the hard work that the team has put in, it was unreal to get the reward at the end.

“We’ve had a lot of bad days in the last few years when we haven’t performed on the big occasion. There’s no other way of putting it. But in fairness to the lads, they didn’t put a foot wrong all year. They won Division 4 of the County League and the O’Sullivan Cup (East Kerry Junior Championship) when me and David weren’t there.

“On Sunday Matt Rennie caught massive balls when we needed him to. Dan Connell has been unreal all year since he came back from San Fran and he played very well. David got the big points. The fellas who came off the bench, like Rian Colleran, made a big difference.

“To be fair, there weren’t many fellas that didn’t play well for us. It was a fairly solid performance against a tough team. I thought [Stewartstown] were very good. Very powerful runners and a very good inside forward line.”

Younger brother David was typically sensational, kicking 0-11 (eight from play) en route to yet another Man of the Match award. The Footballer of the Year turns 24 on Sunday. Is there room for even more improvement in his game as he enters his mid-twenties?

“I suppose he's going to try and go out and improve every day,” Paudie says. “I’m sure he’s striving towards that, but it remains to be seen. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

The elder Clifford (26) also reserves special praise for Fossa’s management team, in particular bainisteoir Adrian Sheehan and coach Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

“Adrian is a very good man-manager. Everyone gets on with him. But he’s very tactical too and another thing about him is that he’s always willing to learn. He’s very modest and he's always willing to listen to the players and take their opinions on board.

“I really hope that he gets a chance at intercounty level once he’s finished with us, be it minor or U21. But obviously we don’t want him to be finished with us for a long time.

“Eamonn then is an absolute genius really. It’s like he makes things very simple but he also gets a lot across, if you get me?

“He’s very calm. At half-time, if things aren’t going well, he’s really able to calm things and get us ready. He’s able to spot things in a match as well. He has all the attributes you could want in a coach.”

The 2023 National League gets underway next weekend (January 28/29) with Kerry facing a tough away trip to Donegal on the Sunday. After an extremely long season with county and then club, it would be understandable if the Clifford brothers were granted an extended rest period before linking back up with their Kerry teammates in Currans.

But, in his distinctive, matter-of-fact tone, Paudie says that he and David won’t be taking too much time off.

“I’ve been talking to Jack. [The break will be] a few weeks. Nothing major.

“We’ll be ready to go again in a few weeks.”

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Kerry ladies must bounce back at home to Waterford

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All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Kerry v Waterford

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

The Kerry ladies will be looking to get back to winning ways against Waterford on Saturday following last weekend’s frustrating draw against Donegal in Ballybofey.

The Kingdom led with seconds remaining in treacherous conditions but a late Donegal free snatched a draw for the home side (Donegal 1-6 Kerry 0-9). It was a game that Kerry would have been expecting to win and the result puts a lot more pressure on them this weekend as they try to top the three-team group and earn a home quarter-final.

If they beat Waterford and Donegal do likewise next week, Kerry and Donegal will be level in first place on four points each. The top seed will then be decided by the head-to-head record between the teams. As Kerry v Donegal was a draw, the deciding factor will be whoever scored the most points in that draw. That would be good news for Kerry as they scored nine points to Donegal’s six.

When Kerry and Waterford last met (in this year’s Munster Championship), Kerry needed a late winner by Fiadhna Tangney to prevail by narrowest of margins (1-8 to 1-7). If Waterford beat Kerry and then lose to Donegal, Kerry would be eliminated from the championship.

The Kerry squad has been boosted by the return of Síofra O’Shea who came off the bench against Donegal following a lengthy period out with a knee injury.

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US-bound Kerry runner Lynch hopes to emulate Mageean magic

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by Adam Moynihan

Killarney middle distance runner Oisín Lynch is taking inspiration from newly crowned European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean as he gets set for the next stage of his career in the United States.

This week Lynch confirmed that he will be heading Stateside after accepting a scholarship at Adams State University in Colorado. The promising 800m and 1500m competitor caught the eye of coaches at the leading American college after representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics and also by winning two national titles in recent months.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the 18-year-old Killarney Valley AC athlete, who is currently doing his Leaving Cert at St Brendan’s College, says he one day hopes to emulate Mageean’s heroics on the international stage.

“The Irish are on the up at underage and at senior level,” Lynch notes. “We have been improving a lot in recent years. When you see Ciara Mageean winning the 1500m it just shows that it can be done by Irish people.

“Sometimes Irish athletes don’t really believe in themselves when they’re getting knocked out of championships by English or European athletes. Mageean winning that European title is definitely something to drive me on. It shows that I can actually do it.”

DREAM

For Lynch, moving to the United States is a hugely significant step, and one that he has dreamed about making since he was a child.

“It’s unbelievable. I always hoped I could earn a scholarship. I worked hard over the last few years, so it’s nice to see that work paying off.

“I had a few schools onto me but when Adams State got in touch, I sized it up and I knew it was a really good opportunity.

“The fact that the college is at 7,500 feet… That’s a crazy altitude. It’s double the height of Carrauntoohil. Altitude training has massive benefits for distance running and nowadays nearly every pro spends most of their year training at altitude. The chance to get that training for the next couple of years is great.

“And their athletics programme is unbelievable. Coach Damon Martin has been there for 40 years and he has coached 12 Olympians. Adams State is in the top 15 for distance in the country and the standard out there in America is very high.”

STRIDES

Killarney Valley AC have made enormous strides since building their new, state-of-the-art facility in 2020 and Lynch is a grateful beneficiary of that progress.

“I can’t thank the club enough. Going back a couple of years we were training on grass in parks. When you want to be a track runner, it’s just not the same. After a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, we managed to get a 200-metre track in Killarney. That’s massive for us and it’s all we need for training.

“The coaches down there are putting in the hard work, including my dad (Con), Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, Jerry Griffin, Bríd Stack, Alan Delaney… I could go on. It’s a great club and there are some good athletes coming through. It’s an exciting time for Killarney Valley.”

After Lynch completes his Leaving Cert, he will start preparing for life as a college athlete. He will study kinesiology in Colorado and on the track he hopes to keep on moving in the right direction. That means getting his times down (his current PBs are 1.50.59 over 800m and 3.51 over 1500m), representing Ireland, and hopefully winning a national title in America.

“Obviously I’ll take every step as it comes,” the ambitious Kerryman says, “but the Olympics is the main long-term target, hopefully in LA in 2028.”

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