DERRY GAA: Four goal Clifford destroys Derry All Ireland dream
Electric Ireland All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final
Derry 1-08, Kerry, 6-17
It wasn't exactly men against boys; it was more like 'man' against boys as David Clifford almost single-handedly ended Derry dreams of a first All Ireland Minor title since 2002 with a breathtaking display in Croke Park on Sunday.
The Kerry captain, possibly the most hyped player in the history of the minor game, showed exactly why by scoring at will and destroying a succession of Oak Leaf defenders on his way to the Man of the Match accolade and a remarkable personal tally of 4-04.
While the Oak Leafers could be accused of naivety by going man to man on the Fossa star, it is doubtful if three markers would have stopped him in this type of form.
Whatever plans Damian McErlain and his meticulous management team had laid out prior to throw in, it took Clifford only 11 seconds to throw them into disarray with the opening goal.
Midfielder Diarmuid O'Connor won possession and threw a long ball in toward his talismanic captain. Shorn of any extra cover from a sweeper, Conor McCluskey was man-to-man with Clifford and the Kerry forward showed exactly what all the fuss has been about with a brilliant low finish.
It was a hammer blow, not so much to the score-line but to the collective confidence of the Oak Leafers and while they recovered well to bring it back to 1-02 to 0-04 , uncharacteristic little errors hinted the shock to the system they had received.
A superb Oisin McWilliams point got Derry on the scoreboard and employing a high pressing game on the Kerry kick-out, the young Oak Leafers enjoyed a productive 10 minute spell.
McWilliams' point was followed by a Brian Friel effort for Kerry but Mark McGrogan checked inside his marker beautifully to send over a cracking point before repeating the feat when the Derry pressure caused Kerry to lose possession inside their own '45'.
When Lorcan McWilliams scored, Derry had brought it back to a single point by the tenth minute but that was before Clifford took over again.
He had already sent Jack Griffin clear only for the Kerry 14 to shoot inches wide but in the 14th minute he decided to do it himself again.
It was another routine ball in to him, this time on the left but this time, after the finesse of his first goal, Glifford showed his strength, shrugging McClusky and two other Derry defenders off before bundling his way into the square and scuffing a shot over the line for 2-02 to 0-04.
That was two sides of his games showcased. Now for the third and it was another knife through the Derry team.
Back on the right, he orchestrated an yard of space for himself, turned inside and played an inch perfect pass into the path of Fiachra Clifford to send him clean through. Clifford No. 2 had obviously been watching his illustrious namesake and finished in a similar style for a seven point lead.
Shaken by tghe goals, Derry managed only one further point in the half, Dungiven's Richie Mullan getting himself on the scoreboard.
That was in stark contrast to the other end where that man Clifford reeled off three successive point and Donal O'Sullivan also fired over. Jack Griffin sent over the last score of the opening half and by then, the final looked long since over at 3-08 to 0-05.
If anyone thought it wasn't at that point, a fourth Kerry goal confirmed it and again it was Clifford, Fiachra that is for a 4-09 to 0-06 lead.
Now it was only a case of how big the winning margin would be.
Derry had rang the changes at half-time, introducing three player and one of them, Callum Brown did his best to breath life into the Oak Leaf challenge. he won every high ball played into him at full forward and was the first Derry player to genuinely worry the Kingdom defence. Brown won his side a penalty which Patrick Quigg converted and could have had a goal soon after but for a superb stop by Kerry keeper Deividas Uosis.
It was academic and while it leaves a few 'what ifs' to ponder, there victor was never in any doubt. To illustrate the point, Clifford helped himself to further goals in the 45th and 47th minute. Derry had no answer to him but then again, no one has this year.
Derry: Oran Hartin, Oran McGill, Conor McCloskey, Sean McKeever, Simon McErlain, Padraig McGrogan, Conleth McShane, Oisin McWilliams (0-2), Dara Rafferty, Patrick Quigg (1-1, 1pen), Richie Mullan (0-1), Martin Bradley, Ben McCarron, Lorcan McWilliams (0-2, 1f), Mark McGrogan (0-2).
Subs: Declan Cassidy for C McCluskey, HT; Callum Brown for D Rafferty, H/T; Conor Quinn for B McCarron, H/T; Odhran Quinn for C McShane, 37mins; Tiarnan MCHugh for R Mullan, 42mins; Jon Paul Devlin for M McGrogan, 42mins;
Kerry: Deividas Uosis, Sean O’Leary, Chris O’Donoghue, Cian Gamell, Patrick Warren, Michael Potts, Niall Donohue, Barry Mahony, Diarmuid O’Connor, Adam Donoghue (0-1), David Clifford (4-4), Donal O’Sullivan (0-3), Fiachra Clifford (2-0), Jack Griffin (0-2), Brian Friel (0-5, 1f).
Subs: Eddie Horan for J Griffin, 44mins; Donnchadh O'Sullivan (0-1) for D O'Sullivan, 49mins; Ciaran O'Reilly (0-1) for F Clifford, 53mins;Michael O'Leary for C Gammell, 57mins; Ryan O'Neil for N Donohue, 57mins; Michael Slatery for A Donoghue, 59mins;
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)