SAM resides in the Kingdom once again after Jack O’Connor’s men managed to turn the screw on Galway late in the second half last Sunday.
Before we get stuck in to the nuts and bolts, let’s first applaud both teams on a wonderful occasion last Sunday when some of the football on display was simply breath-taking. That’s the sort of stuff we want to see our children watching.
Heading into the game all the talk was that Galway were going to park the bus to try and contain the Kerry machine until the game opened up in the second half. But credit to Pádraic Joyce and his players. They turned up and decided to have a real go and it nearly paid off.
Galway settled well and kicked some good scores early on and with each Kerry wide you began to feel that this could Galway’s day because they were way more clinical in attack. Kerry players looked jittery in front of goal, missing easy opportunities early on and Galway seemed to draw oxygen from that. Every time a maroon jersey turned over the ball, the stadium erupted as they surged forward.
I’ll get to talk about the Shane Walsh and David Clifford later on, but we must also mention some other towering performances from Cillian McDaid and Jason Foley, who I thought were absolutely superb from start to finish. On game days and especially big game days, you dream about having performances like that and you visualise yourself in those sort of positions.
Dreaming about it is one thing but it actually came to fruition for not one or two players, but five or six lads who played the game of their lives last Sunday and that’s why we had an absolute cracker.
There were two standout performances last weekend and when we look back on the history books in years to come, they will go down as probably the two best performances on All-Ireland final day ever. I understand others may have scored more, but the sort of scores Walsh and Clifford kicked from all angles with both feet, was simply astonishing. I am delighted that I took the decision to take my young boy along to witness it because it was poetry in motion.
There was a lot of debate over the man of the match award and I truly understand that Shane Walsh was immense, but these sort of accolades tend to be given to the player who delivers when needed the most and drags his team over the line. When you look at David Clifford‘s performance, from start to finish, he single-handedly dragged Kerry back into the contest and then drove them over the line.
When Kerry were stuttering in front of goal early in the first half missing easy opportunities, David Clifford’s two marks settled the whole team down. From that moment, Kerry slowly grew in confidence and into the game. With some of the scores, he simply refused to return home without Sam. I truly believe although he is only 23, he will be the best that we have ever seen play the game.
Having played for a few years at that level, I tend to look for the things in games that others might overlook because I know how it feels to prepare for games at that level and how good your mind needs to be in order to perform. I pay great attention in the warm-ups to see how players look and how they present themselves and it usually gives me a good indication of their mind-set heading into the game.
I was keen to see how David Clifford would look in the pre match parade, so I focused solely on him as the players made their way around Croke Park. If you rewind, you will see him staring up with the crowd with a massive smile on his face and that to me is a player completely comfortable in his environment. There is no other place in the world he wants to be, so pressure doesn’t exist for that man and this is the stage he believes he deserves to live in.
As he made his way to our section of the ground I shook my head and smiled because I knew looking at him with his body language that he was ready for this occasion. Once he soared into the air for the first mark you could just tell that he was going to make this his day and boy did he do just that.
As the inter-county season draws to a close we would have to be happy with what we saw this year.
Yes we had some pretty dull games but the majority of big games delivered and gave us something to aspire to. All in all I think it was a pretty good championship. Now the full focus will turn to club championships up and down the country as we try to find the next David Clifford.