Clifford's late magic breaks Galway hearts
All Ireland MFC final: Kerry 3-7 Galway 0-9
Coming down the home straight Galway looked like they were coming good at the right time.
They had looked a little unsure of themselves in the first half, and the concession of two goals left them with a mountain to climb against a Kerry minor team who were about as experienced as about minor team can be.
Some of them were here when they won last year. Others had tasted All-Ireland success in Croke Park earlier this year with St Brendan's in the Hogan Cup final.
But Galway, who had shown signs of their class throughout the championship, found their feet in the second half, and with it came a chink of light in the closing minutes.
When a Kerry attack perished thanks to two heroic blockdowns, Galway, who were just two points down having trailed by six at one stage, looked to have forced momentum their way.
But big moments call for big players. And as far as the minor grade has been concerned David Clifford has been a giant this term. On 52 minutes he gathered possession and headed for goal.
Soloing on his left foot towards the Hill he dropped a shoulder and somehow found the top corner of the Galway goal with his right boot.
Suddenly Kerry were five points clear and well on the road to being All-Ireland minor champions for the third year on the bounce. The dismissal of Galway's John Maher late on added insult to injury for the Connacht side.
"Drained! Is that an emotion?" Kerry manager Peter Keane asked afterwards. "After 18 minutes it was a point to nothing. That would remind you of a south Kerry championship in December when the fields are heavy.
"We are delighted, we always knew it was going to be exceptionally tough. There were fellas I know were saying that this was going to be a stroll because of the scores we'd been kicking all year - far from it.
"We knew there wasn't going to be a whole lot of space and we knew they'd be targeting our forwards with the scores they'd been kicking.
"To keep us to 10 scores was a fair credit to them. The one huge factor was it was like an ice-rink out there, the ball was like a bar of soap.
"There were a lot of mistakes made but they persevered and stayed at it. That's a credit to the team and the work-rate they have."
Both teams came into the game with much vaunted attacks but there was no sign of the free-flowing football promised early on.
After 19 minutes, the only score registered was a free from the excellent Kerry captain Sean O'Shea. By the half-time whistle, the teams had only managed six scores between them, but crucially, two of those were Kerry goals.
First Diarmuid O'Connor punched O'Shea's point attempt to the net to put his side 1-1 to no score up. Galway captain Desmond Conneely finally opened his side's account from a free on 21 minutes but Kerry struck again soon afterwards.
Galway had done well to keep Clifford on the periphery of the game early on but he showed his power to gather a dropping ball while under intense pressure and his composure to feed full-forward David Shaw, who finished to the net well to put Kerry in control.
Galway's Cein D'Arcy and Shaw swapped points before the break to leave the Kingdom 2-2 to 0-2 clear at the interval.
Kerry looked to be within a couple of scores of closing the thing out at the start of the second half but Galway roared into life. They put two on the board inside the first 60 seconds of the half and added another to get back to within a single score.
Kerry went scoreless for the first 11 minutes of the half before Niall Collins ended the drought. The sides were well matched from there on, with Dara Moynihan showing well for Kerry with two crucial points.
But Galway got back to within two points before Clifford's goal settled things. The Fossa youngster is eligible for minor again in 2017.
Galway manager Stephen Joyce left to rue his side's poor first-half showing.
"In the first half we didn't play. We were nervous," he said. "They had that little bit more experience, this being their third game here and the fact that a lot of their lads played colleges finals here.
"We took a lot of wrong options in the first half. It took us 20 minutes to score and I think that, at the end of the day, caught us.
"Because we did come back into it in the second-half and we did look like we had them on the rack, but unfortunately, young Clifford put another one in the net and that probably killed off the game.
"We took shots in the first half when we should have settled on the ball. Had we taken one or two of those points early on, we certainly would have been closer at the finish."
Kerry collected title No 14 and a third in a row for the first time since 1933 but Keane wasn't overly concerned with making a little piece of history.
"It means nothing to me. And I don't think it means a whole pile to those fellas," he said.
"I've been saying this, you had fellas there today winning their first All-Ireland medal. It's not like they won it last year and the year before.
"That doesn't happen. History is great, its great to see we are in with some gang in the '30s but so what? It's all about these fellas winning an All-Ireland medal."
SCORERS - Kerry: D Shaw 1-1, D Clifford, D O'Connor 1-0 each, S O'Shea (2f), D Moynihan 0-2 each, N Collins, C Linnane 0-1 each. Galway: R Finnerty 0-3 (2f), D Conneely 0-2 (2f), C D'Arcy. R Forde, R Cunningham 0-1, Quirke each.
Kerry - B Courtney; D Naughten, N Collins, G O'Sullivan; M Potts, D O'Brien, M Foley; M Breen, M Ryan; D Moynihan, S O'Shea, D O'Connor; D Clifford, D Shaw, B Friel. Subs: C Linnane for Friel (48), B Sweeney for Shaw (59), C Teehan for Collins (54), S Okunbar for O'Connor (60).
Galway - C Haslam; L Boyle, S Mulkerrin, E McFadden; A Quirke, E McDonagh, F Garvey; C D'arcy, J Maher; F O Laoi, E Murphy, R Forde; R Finnerty, S Raftery, D Conneely Subs: B Goldrick for Murphy (38), R Murphy for Raftery (50), R Cunningham for Finnerty (56), E Deeley for Garvey (57).
Ref - C Branagan (Down)
Game at a glance
Man of the match
Sean O'Shea (Kerry)
Plenty of names in the hat for the winners but Sean O'Shea was excellent from start to finish.
With three minor titles in a row secured, just how good will Kerry be in the future?
Kerry's third goal was a piece of pure brilliance from David Clifford. The Fossa man soloed on his left foot before hitting the top corner with his right.
Ciaran Branagan (Down)
Solid day out. Dismissal of John Maher looked harsh at first glance but had no impact on the outcome of the game.
Kerry 10 (7 in first half) Galway 12 (5)
Kerry 11 (5) Galway 13 (8)
Galway 1 (J Maher, 60)
Kerry 1 (S O'Shea, 58) Galway 1 (J Maher 28, 60)
Kerry are champions for the third year in a row, something they last achieved in the 1930s. Galway will try again in 2017.