Public will demand Clifford plays senior says O’Connor
JACK O’Connor has expressed his delight that David Clifford has committed his immediate future to the Kingdom, but the Kerry U-20 team manager concedes it’s highly unlikely he will have Clifford available for the U-20 team next year as he expects the Fossa teenager to be called up by Eamonn Fitzmaurice instead.
O’Connor, who collected the Electric Ireland Minor Star Special Merit Award at Croke Park last Saturday after guiding Kerry to All-Ireland minor titles in 2014 and 2015, warned Clifford, who was a target for leading AFL clubs, that he will be a marked man when he steps up to the senior grade.
“It’s a big jump. Minor level is all about playing ball whereas at senior level there’s a bit more to it. David will get a lot more attention than he would have got at minor level.
“He’ll get a lot more on the field, and maybe off the field as well. He just needs to take that in his stride and not get anxious if it doesn’t work straight away for him. The people of Kerry need to be a bit patient as well.”
“He’s a good, level-headed lad and comes from good stock. It’s just exciting times and I’m delighted he’s committed to Kerry, rather than throwing in his lot with Aussie Rules.
“The key now is to try and bed them in with some of the established senior players because you can’t throw them all in together – that doesn’t work either.”
O’Connor insists that Fitzmaurice’s senior set-up could do with an infusion of new blood – and admits that the Kerry public will “demand” that Clifford is part of that.
“It is a big jump so it will be interesting to see how (Clifford) gets on, he said. “We’d be delighted to have him at U-20 but the Kerry public will demand that he gets a go at senior level because he’s an exceptional player, probably the most dominant minor that’s come along in a long time.
“Sean O’Shea is already in the senior panel so the two of those guys will probably be unavailable to the U-20s but we still have a strong panel to pick from so hopefully we’ll do well.
“The key for Kerry is to get some of these young lads bedded into the team next year because Kerry do need new blood, there’s no question about that.
“They (seniors) fell short this year, it’s an important year ahead because these fellas have won a good bit underage, Hogan Cups and minors, and the stuff is in them.
“It’s just a case of whether they can make that step up because it’s still a big step up to senior.”
Meanhwile, Clifford says he will be more than happy to go along with whatever plans Kerry U-20 manager Jack O’Connor and senior team boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice might have for him for 2018.
“I’m staying put, that’s the main thing,” he confirmed at the weekend. “To be honest, playing for Kerry was always a dream of mine so any opportunity I got to do that, I was going to jump at it. Whichever step the management teams decide to take, I’ll be delighted to go along with that.
“There’s plenty of time there yet so whatever team it is, I don’t mind. I still have a lot of improving to make, there are no guarantees that making it at minor is going to push you onto a senior team. I still have a lot of hard work to do.”
Clifford said he had a brief conversation with Fitzmaurice following the All-Ireland minor final.
“He briefly congratulated me. Maybe he’ll be in touch, maybe he won’t. We’ll see how it goes,” he added.
The Kerry representatives of the Minor Football Teams of the Year, from left, Donal O’Sullivan, Michael Potts, Niall Donohue, David Clifford, Barry Mahony, Cian Gammell, Fiachra Clifford and Deividas Uosis, with their 2017 Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards.