Pub­lic will de­mand Clif­ford plays se­nior says O’Con­nor

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

Photo by Sports­file

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...

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