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Four-star Clifford leads Kerry's Croker rampage

Kerry 6-17 Derry 1-8 - All-Ireland MFC Final

Kerry captain David Clifford celebrates with the Tom Markham Cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry captain David Clifford celebrates with the Tom Markham Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

A few minutes before the end the stadium announcer declared that he was about to reveal the man of the match.

There was only one contender. David Clifford was unstoppable, although he revealed his surprise afterwards that Derry didn't set up more defensively.

Lorcan McWilliams of Derry in action against Diarmuid O'Connor of Kerry during the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final match between Kerry and Derry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Lorcan McWilliams of Derry in action against Diarmuid O'Connor of Kerry during the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final match between Kerry and Derry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Not that he was complaining. The Kerry captain finished with an astonishing 4-4 from play, which may be an unprecedented tally for a minor decider, as the Kingdom demolished Derry's hopes of a first minor title since 2002.

The Oak Leafers lost to the same opponents in the All-Ireland minor semi-final in 2015, and were eliminated by Kerry at the quarter-final stage last year, but this was a humiliation, the match decided long before the end.

Even before this four-star display, the Fossa dynamo has been the subject of the much speculation surrounding a possible move to Australian Rules, but Kerry manager Peter Keane was adamant afterwards that isn't on the agenda for the IT Tralee student.

"I don't know where the media get all this talk," said a jubliant Keane. "This guy is embedded in Kerry GAA."

Callum Brown of Derry is tackled by Seán O’Leary of Kerry , left, and goalkeeper Deividas Uosis which resulted in a penalty being awarded. Photo: Sportsfile
Callum Brown of Derry is tackled by Seán O’Leary of Kerry , left, and goalkeeper Deividas Uosis which resulted in a penalty being awarded. Photo: Sportsfile

Followers of the green and gold will certainly be hoping that turns out to be the case and as for the man himself, Clifford said that he just wanted to enjoy the moment - which was the very least he deserved.

"Words can't actually describe it," he reflected. "I don't actually have a clue what to say. We knew we were going to get a tough test from Derry, we were probably in fear of their defending but we trusted ourselves.

"Peter had great faith in us and we knew we had great faith in them. A final was all about putting a performance in and everyone can see that's exactly what we did.

"We were actually expecting a more defensive set-up from Derry, but maybe it's a good thing they didn't do it."

Clifford, playing full-forward in a fluent Kerry attack, set the tone after just 12 seconds when winning the first ball against his marker Conor McCluskey and driving a low shot past Oran Hartin.

Oisin McWilliams responded with a Derry point but there were early signs that their defence was unable to stifle Kerry's movement and attacking threat.

Fiachra Clifford also scored two goals, the first set up by a beautifully judged defence-splitting pass from his namesake David in the 15th minute. By that early stage the damage inflicted on Derry was devastating and they had little prospect of mounting a meaningful recovery.

A minute before that goal, Kerry's third, they had their second green flag when David Clifford won possession and used his strength to ward off a series of challenges before managing to poke the ball into the net.

Those two goals in quick succession destroyed Derry's confidence and even though they moved Padraig McGrogan on to Clifford, it was too late to rescue the match. Their best spell had come before the second Kerry goal, when they stitched three points together, two from Mark McGrogan and another by Lorcan McWilliams, leaving Kerry just a point ahead, 1-2 to 0-4, after 12 minutes.

The signs were ominous however, with Jack Griffin twice blowing good goal chances, the first driven wide after David Clifford created the opening, and then a later effort saved by Hartin.

After McWilliams' point in the 12th minute Derry didn't score again until two minutes before half-time. In the intervening period Kerry's score went from 1-2 to 3-7. By half-time they led 3-8 to 0-5, and all life had been drained from the contest.

Impact

Derry made three substitutions at half-time, and one of those, Callum Brown, made an impact at full-forward, using his height and power to cause Kerry problems.

Nine minutes after the interval he won a penalty after making a fine leap and catch, which Patrick Quigg converted.

But Kerry were in a different league. Three minutes before that Fiachra Clifford scored his second goal after a lovely passing move opened up the Derry backline.

Brown had a goal attempt saved by Kerry goalkeeper Deividas Uosis, and with play entering the final quarter David Clifford struck again, with two goals in the space of a minute. The first was a catch and strike from a long delivery; the second set up by the impressive Donal O'Sullivan.

From there the match died a death, with Derry waiting for the relief of the final whistle.

Scorers - Kerry: D Clifford 4-4; F Clifford 2-0; B Friel 0-5 (0-1 f); Donal O'Sullivan 0-3; J Griffin 0-2; Donnchadh O'Sullivan, E Horan, A Donoghue 0-1. Derry: P Quigg 1-1 (1-0 pen); O McWilliams, L McWilliams (1 f), M McGrogan 0-2; R Mullan 0-1.

Kerry - D Uosis 7; S O'Leary 8, C O'Donoghue 7, C Gammell 7; P Warren 7, M Potts 7, N Donohue 7; B Mahony 7, D O'Connor 8; A Donoghue 7, B Friel 8, F Clifford 8; J Griffin 8, D Clifford 10, D O'Sullivan 9. Subs: E Horan 7 for Griffin (45); Donnchadh O'Sullivan 7 for Donal O'Sullivan (50); C O'Reilly 7 for F Clifford (53); R O'Neill 7 for N Donohue (58); M Slattery 7 for A Donoghue (59).

Derry - O Hartin 7; O McGill 6, C McCluskey 6, S McKeever 6; S McErlain 6, P McGrogan 6, C McShane 6; O McWilliams 6, D Rafferty 6; P Quigg 7, R Mullan 6, M Bradley 6; B McCarron 6, L McWilliams 6, M McGrogan 7. Subs: D Cassidy 6 for McCluskey & C Brown 8 for Rafferty & C Quinn 6 for McCarron (half time); O Quinn 6 for McShane (39); JP Devlin 6 for M McGrogan & T McHugh 6 for Mullan (42).

Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow).

Irish Independent

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