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In pure football terms, no one I’ve seen is better than Clifford

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by Adam Moynihan

For most players, posting 1-9 and being named Man of the Match in a county final would define a career. For David Clifford, it didn’t even define his weekend.

Less than 48 hours before he led East Kerry to another title in Tralee, Clifford was in the Dublin Docklands picking up his fourth All-Star in five attempts. (But for the pandemic, there’s a decent chance it would be five in five.)

He was also crowned Footballer of the Year at the GAA’s end-of-season gala which effectively means that the 23-year-old PE teacher has already achieved all there is to achieve when it comes to intercounty football. His widely predicted ascent to the very top of the game is complete. The Fossa man is the best Gaelic footballer in the country. Or the world, if you want to be American about it.

That much is undeniably true but more contentious is the debate surrounding Clifford’s place amongst the all-time greats.

It’s an interesting question and one that crops up regularly in the smoking areas and quiet corners of Kerry’s public houses, but the reality is that it’s simply too early to judge his legacy and his career just yet. All going well he could have a decade left in him. Maybe more, maybe less.

Who knows what the future will bring for him and for his team, but right now the honours section of his Wikipedia page doesn’t compare with those of Colm Cooper or Pat Spillane, for example. It doesn’t even compare with those of some of the Dublin players who have won it all in recent times.

For this reason, it’s not right to call Clifford the GOAT. I’ve done it myself online in emoji form, for instance when he executed his drag back and finish against Galway in 2021, but I think the term “GOAT” has become less literal and more symbolic over time. When fans of soccer clubs start using the acronym to describe some mediocre centre half who has just made a basic tackle, the word loses whatever weight it had in the first place.

You really can’t refer to a player as young as Clifford as the greatest ever. As much as he has achieved, he hasn’t achieved enough yet. He needs to do it again and again and put together a body of work over a longer period to earn that particular title.

But I will stand over what I said recently, and what I’ve been saying about Clifford for a good while now: he is the best player I’ve ever seen.

At this point you might rightly ask what I mean by “best” and how he can be the “best” but not the “greatest”.

“Best” to me refers to how good he is at football - in the purest form of that notion. Forget the accomplishments and the silverware. Things like that contribute to a player’s legacy but they have no bearing on the simple act of you or me, as observers, going to a match and watching a footballer on a pitch.

How good is Clifford in this regard? To me, he is the best. The way he plays - his skill levels, his technique, his physicality, his creativity, his attitude - I’ve never seen anything like it.

You can make strong arguments for other wonderful players, many of them Kerrymen, who have gone before him, and that’s fair enough. Everyone has their own favourites and, when it boils down to it, judging a footballer is as subjective as judging a painter or a musician or any other kind of artist. Some people like James Corden. There’s no accounting for taste.

But when you really break down and analyse the games of other legendary players, are there many things they were able to do on a pitch that Clifford can’t? Are there any?

Conversely, are there things Clifford can do on a pitch that they couldn’t?

Again, all-time greats are judged by their careers. Although his place in the pantheon of Kerry legends is already secured, he will only be considered god of gods if he and his team sample even more success in the coming years. With that in mind, I’ll show restraint with the goat emojis for now.

In pure footballing terms, though, and judging him solely by how he plays the game, I firmly believe that I’ve never seen anyone better.

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Opponent gets 10-match ban for using discriminatory language towards Kerry player

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A rival player has been suspended for using discriminatory language in a match against Kerry FC, the League of Ireland has confirmed.

The FAI’s Independent Disciplinary Committee handed Harry Curtis of UCD a 10-match ban for the offence, which took place during the game between the two sides in Mounthawk Park, Tralee last week.

Curtis was sent off in injury time. UCD won the game 2-1.

“An Independent Disciplinary Committee of the FAI has sanctioned UCD AFC player Harry Curtis for using discriminatory language towards a Kerry FC player in the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division fixture on 10 May 2024,” a League of Ireland statement read.

“The FAI and League of Ireland maintains a strict zero tolerance approach towards any act of discrimination and are committed to ensuring that League of Ireland matches remain a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

“In accordance with FIFA Regulations and the FAI Disciplinary Regulations, Harry Curits will serve a 10-match suspension. Please note the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee may be appealed.”

Kerry FC issued the following statement welcoming the ban: “We condemn discrimination in football and are constantly working to kick it out of the game.

“Mounthawk Park and Kerry FC is a community where everyone is welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, and other diverse backgrounds.

“We would like to thank the Independent Disciplinary Committee in the FAI for their continued efforts and dedication to keeping discrimination out of the game.”

Last week Dundalk goalkeeper George Shelvey was also suspended for 10 games for abusing referee Rob Harvey.

Kerry FC were also involved in two alleged cases of racial abuse last season. In September, they claimed a Longford Town player aimed a “racial remark” at one of their players. The matter was referred to An Garda Síochána.

Earlier in the 2023 season, Kerry released a statement condemning racist online comments that had been made about the black players in their squad.

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TEAM NEWS: Kerry and Monaghan name starting 15s for Killarney showdown

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All-Ireland SFC Group 4

Kerry v Monaghan

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

Live on GAAGO

Jack O’Connor has rewarded Munster final Man of the Match Tony Brosnan with a spot in Kerry’s starting 15 for Saturday’s All-Ireland group phase opener against Monaghan.

Brosnan kicked three points from play a fortnight ago and he retains his place in a forward division that also includes Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Seánie O’Shea, David Clifford and the recalled Paul Geaney.

Dingle veteran Geaney starts in place of youngster Cillian Burke, who drops to the bench.

Shane Ryan returns in goal instead of Shane Murphy while the back six and midfield remain unchanged from the seven-point victory in Ennis.

Graham O’Sullivan is a notable absentee from the matchday 26. The Dromid defender’s groin injury was described by O’Connor as “minor” after the Clare game, which O’Sullivan also missed.

Monaghan manager Vinny Corey has also named his side for tomorrow’s Sam Maguire encounter at the Fitzgerald Stadium and he has made five changes from the Farney Army’s last outing (the Ulster preliminary round defeat to Cavan on April 7).

Four of those switches come in attack as Stephen O’Hanlon, Micheál Bannigan, Michael Hammill and Seán Jones replace Garland, Irwin, Loughran and McCarron.

Experienced midfielder Darren Hughes, who was forced off with a knee injury in that match in Clones six weeks ago, is unavailable and is replaced by Micheál McCarville.

Rory Beggan starts in goal after a potential move to the Carolina Panthers in the NFL did not materialise. Talismanic forward Conor McManus will wear the number 15 jersey.

The last time these teams met was in the league at St Tiernach’s Park in February. Kerry prevailed on a scoreline of 3-15 to 1-12.

Tickets for Kerry v Monaghan can be purchased here for €25. Three-match bundles for the entire group stage are also available for €50.

The match will not be televised but it will be streamed on GAAGO.

KERRY TEAM

1. Shane Ryan

2. Paul Murphy

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O’Sullivan

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White

8. Diarmuid O’Connor

9. Joe O’Connor

10. Tony Brosnan

11. Paudie Clifford

12. Dara Moynihan

13. David Clifford

14. Seánie O’Shea

15. Paul Geaney

Subs: Shane Murphy, Cillian Burke, Seán O’Brien, Adrian Spillane, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Dylan Casey, Stephen O’Brien, Mike Breen, Killian Spillane, Darragh Roche, Armin Heinrich.

MONAGHAN TEAM

1. Rory Beggan

2. Ryan Wylie

3. Kieran Duffy

4. Ryan O’Toole

5. Karl O’Connell

6. Killian Lavelle

7. Conor McCarthy

8. Gary Mohan

9. Micheál McCarville

10. Stephen O’Hanlon

11. Micheál Bannigan

12. Michael Hamill

13. Ciarán McNulty

14. Seán Jones

15. Conor McManus

Subs: Darren McDonnell, Jack McCarron, Stephen Mooney, Dessie Ward, Ryan McAnespie, David Garland, Jason Irwin, Andrew Woods, Barry McBennett, Joel Wilson, Thomas McPhillips.

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