Tuesday 17 September 2019

Kerry fret over Clifford as O'Connor takes AFL by storm

Kerry's David Clifford. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry's David Clifford. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kerry GAA chiefs are fretting over a possible Aussie Rules move for star minor forward David Clifford in the wake of Mark O'Connor's spectacular progress with Geelong, which sees him make his AFL debut this weekend.

O'Connor, the back-to-back All-Ireland-winning Kerry minor, joined Geelong in October but has made such an impression with the club's reserves that he has been quickly pushed up to the senior squad for this weekend's game against Freemantle.

Longford's Michael Quinn holds the record for the quickest graduation with his round-two appearance for Essendon in 2009 coming just five months after he signed professional terms, described by the late Jim Stynes at the time as "phenomenal".

Stynes debuted for Melbourne in 1987, more than two seasons after his late-1984 move, but O'Connor's elevation will be the second fastest AFL debut by a player moving from the GAA.

A stylish midfielder from the Dingle club, O'Connor won two All-Ireland minor football medals with Kerry in 2014 and 2015 (captain) - as well as Hogan Cup honours with his school PS Chorca Dhuibhne in both those years. He was rated a serious long-term prospect and his loss to AFL promoted strong words from departing Kerry chairman Patrick O'Sullivan late last year.

O'Connor's rise comes as more focus is applied to Kerry minor star David Clifford, who bagged 2-8 as the Kingdom reached the Munster final at Cork's expense on Wednesday night.

Clifford's exploits have put Kerry on course for a fourth successive All-Ireland title in the grade - earning him strong interest from AFL scouts and agents - but Kingdom bosses have already made it clear they are determined to keep him at home.

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