Fire must be met with fire if we want to prevent the poaching of gifted talents like Kerry’s David Clifford
‘PLAYERS CAN LEAVE FOR REASONS OTHER THAN THE MONEY’
THE sound that spooked Kerry last Sunday was not the guttural Mayo heckles from the stands as Bryan Sheehan stood up to that kick, but the crude mating call that carried in the air from the other side of the world a couple of hours previously.
You may not have heard it even if you caught the minor live show where gasps of ‘oohs and aahs’ that have been the constant soundtrack to perhaps the most extraordinary young talent to have laced a football boot, filled the air once again.
David Clifford had fired over four points inside 20 minutes and yet, at the same time, almost fooled us into thinking he was on the game’s margins, such is the way he carries that 6ft 2in frame of loping intent.
Fellow sports hack Mikey Stafford nailed it deliciously when he tweeted: ‘David Clifford is one of those wonderfully-talented sports they men who always looked wrecked, from minute one.
‘A Gaelic Damien Duff or Rafa Nadal,’ he added.
By the time he was done with Cavan he had taken them for 1-10, bringing his season total after five games to 4-37 — that’s an average of 10 points a game.
That is why in the Deep South, where they tend to be as liberal with praise as a Donald Trump press conference is with good sense, they are simply losing the run of their tongues.
He is a Colm Cooper/Maurice Fitzgerald/Kieran Donaghy all rolled into one.
Kerry is no longer bothering with such a mundane concept as a production line.
Instead, that much-hyped, recently unveiled centre of excellence is a mere shopfront to a devilish back-room laboratory where are in the process of genetically engineering a master footballing race now that there is a break in the Ó Sé lineage.
Perhaps that is also why some Kerry ears are so finely wired these days that they can pick up sounds not audible to other human receptors.
As far as some are concerned, Clifford might as well have been on a Melbourne catwalk last Sunday, where he was being wolf-whistled by a dozen professional franchises all with contracts itching to be inked. And they could be right. For all the protests, including from AFL’s chief international talent scout Tadhg Kennelly that the Fossa teenager is going nowhere, so irresistible is his promise that it is easy to conceive that a professional franchise will seek to make an offer that would prove too good to refuse.
That is their right as it is his to accept.
But what has impressed this week is how Kerry have decided to come out fighting rather than just bellyache about the moneyed classes coming over here taking the best of us.
Of course, players can leave for reasons other than the money. The prospect of living the professional life is probably more of a pull than the prospect of a few Australian dollars more.
That being the case, they are well within their rights to eke out that experience while nourishing the prospect of making a career out of it as well.
But what the GAA needs to do now is to make its case by not just appealing to the heart but to the wallet, too.
An enhanced international AFL rookie contract — the kind that Irish players typically receive — is approximately €50,000 a year.
And, in a sport with a punitive failure rate, those that make it as established professionals earn on average salary of about €135,000 a year.
It’s not peanuts, but in a short sporting career with a high risk of injury, it is closer to winning the club lotto than the big-bucks Euromillions.
While the GAA has no business in interfering with those who want to take their chosen career path, it doesn’t mean that it should stand idly by with its hands dug deep into empty pockets either.
That is why we liked the cut of Kerry chairman Tim Murphy’s jibe this week when he revealed his county’s action plan.
It is one that is aimed at the hearts, minds and wallets of their best young players to ensure that there is an incentive to stay at home.
‘We are also putting time into another commercial group that would be able to advise our future stars how they can maximise their
profile as GAA players here,’ said Murphy.
We suspect that ‘maximising their profile’ extends beyond getting their picture in the Kerryman on a weekly basis, but as to what shape those incentives will take remains to be seen — the notion of super college bursaries for elite players is one that has been raised at times in the past.
In an association which has to tiptoe around the “kerching!” issue for obvious, if hypocritical, reasons — slush funds are in place to ensure that there is a vibrant off-the-field industry to keep management teams at club and county level gainfully employed — there is a growing realisation that fire must be met with fire to keep the best at home.
That can be dissed as elitism by the GAA’s Taliban, but for those whose ears are pressed to the ground it is one way of ensuring that we at least place some value on the priceless.