Mickey Harte hopes David Clifford resists AFL lure

Kerry's David Clifford is the hottest property in Gaelic football after his stunning performance in Kerry's All-Ireland MFC final win over Derry Picture by Philip Walsh
By Kevin Kelly

MICKEY Harte hopes that David Clifford won’t be the latest young GAA star to quit Gaelic football for the lure of Aussie Rules.

Just after the Kerry sensation had hit 4-4 to claim his second All-Ireland minor medal at the expense of Derry in Sunday’s final, the AFL official Twitter account shared a story from their website about how Clifford is the top prospect in the GAA.

Tyrone know what it feels like to lose a top prospect to the AFL with Conor McKenna recently signing a new four-year deal with Essendon.

The 21-year-old was along the line on Saturday as his club Eglish advanced in the club championship.

“Young Clifford is a serious talent and I think that it’s a serious loss to lose any Gaelic player to Australian Rules,” said Harte.

“I think it’s a pity and people say ‘well they are going to go there anyway’. If they want to go and it is their decision, that’s great, but I don’t think we should be giving them a shop window by this continuation of this Compromise Rules or whatever you want to call it stuff...

“That is why they are coming for more of our players. People will say if you didn’t have the connection they would still come after our players. Maybe they would but we wouldn’t be encouraging them by saying look at the best players that we have and get your agents over here and seize them and take them with you.

“We know what it’s like in Tyrone. Conor McKenna is a serious loss having watched him come up through the minors and that and I tried my best at the time to get him to continue to play Gaelic football.

“I can understand why he went to it because it was what he wants to do and I have no issue with that. I would just have loved if he had stayed with Gaelic football as he’d have been a serious asset to Tyrone now.”

Harte was recently awarded a three-year extension to continue at the helm with Tyrone and he is eagerly looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

“Its excellent to get it sorted out so early and I think that it’s positive that there is a three-year term there because that gives us stability to what we are about,” he said.

“I’m delighted that has happened and I’m delighted that the county board worked on that very efficiently and there was no hesitancy. There are no ifs and buts, it has been awarded now and it’s a privilege.

“I’m always mindful of saying that and with every privilege comes a responsibility for us to do the best that we can and to continue the progress of making Tyrone a better team every year we go out.”

Harte readily admits that Tyrone have to improve if they are to challenge the top sides but he feels that Mayo’s performance on Sunday will have given the chasing pack renewed hope.

“I think based on this season that you would have to say that we are fourth in the country,” said Harte.

“Dublin are at the top and you have Mayo in second and you would have to say Kerry third and we are fourth. I don’t think that there is much argument about that. You are always trying to do better than you did the year before, that’s your aim, your goal.

‘‘The truth of the matter is that everybody seemed to feel that Dublin were so far ahead of everybody else they were almost uncatchable but Mayo have put down a different perception now that they are catchable. They have been with them now toe-to-toe for three All-Ireland finals and there has only been two points between them over the three games.

Sometimes we look at All-Ireland finals, like Sunday’s intense one, and people will say that we are a long way away from there. Of course we are but at the start of the season if you had watched those two teams playing you wouldn’t have seen that standard of football.

‘‘It’s all about getting to a higher level as the season goes on. I think that any side that gets to an All-Ireland final and consistently approaches the game with a degree of intensity then they will end up in that place pretty aggressive, intense and ready for the final too.”

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