Kevin Madden: Dublin's big names got them over the line

David Clifford and Jack O'Connot contemplate defeat on a day when Kerry's star man failed to fire Picture by Philip Walsh
David Clifford and Jack O'Connot contemplate defeat on a day when Kerry's star man failed to fire Picture by Philip Walsh David Clifford and Jack O'Connot contemplate defeat on a day when Kerry's star man failed to fire Picture by Philip Walsh

GONE before her time, Ireland lost a musical giant during the week with the death of Sinead O’Connor. 

It goes without saying that Nothing Compares 2 U was a smash hit that none of us, young or old enough to remember at the time will ever forget. 

Like me, if you were born in the 1970s there’s a fair chance you were in a disco somewhere of a weekend when it would have been a cert to come on during the slow set. 

Slaughtneil disco was our place at that time, where a dual player was someone who was adept at both fighting and slow dancing, but thankfully you never saw both performed at the same time. 

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that great hit was written by American music legend Prince and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have been in Croke Park yesterday had it not been for the appetite to see the ‘Kerry Prince’, David Clifford, in the flesh. 

Such is his fleet-of-foot movement, I heard him described recently as a footballing ballerina.

After watching him in the semi-final win over Derry, I wondered what more Chrissy McKaigue could have done. Within inches of him any time he got the ball, his positioning, shadowing and standing him up was spot on.

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But Clifford’s ability to execute a shot around and over an attempted block is on a different level to anything we have ever seen. 

A ballerina with a samurai sword would be a more apt description. Clifford had two touches of the ball in the first half of yesterday’s All-Ireland final. One resulted in a point from play and the other a majestic right-footed pass for the goal just before half-time.

Outside of that it was clear Michael Fitzsimons was marking tightly and Eoin Murchan was diverting the path of the delivery. Dublin had their tactics spot on.

In the second half, Clifford hit four shots wide that on others days he would have nailed. In those clutch moments it showed that Dublin had more go-to men than the Kingdom.

When they needed a score Paul Mannion didn’t falter. Stephen Cluxton was immense and by God his return was vindicated in the execution of his frees and his ability to get his kickouts away under the Kerry press. The sum of the parts and all that. 

The major talking point probably came in the 54th minute when Kerry had been awarded a free after a tussle when it looked like Fitzsimons had wrestled Clifford to the ground.

After consultation with the umpire the free-in was over-ruled and Dublin broke with Mannion hitting the equaliser. Kerry never led again after that when they previously had Dublin at arm’s length. 

The Dublin bench had a massive impact down the final straight. Paddy Small, Paul Mannion and Dean Rock may have sealed the deal but the over-reliance on Clifford showed that Kerry needed more scoring options.

When the game was in the melting pot Dublin’s big game players came to the fore – Brian Fenton, Jack McCaffrey, Mannion, Fitzsimons and John Small all contributed significantly while the Kerry supporting cast failed to fire. It was 'the Prince' or nothing.

Nothing compares to Clifford but the Dubs showed there was another path to reach the holy grail.

I WAS saddened to hear that Cushendall legend John McKillop passed away yesterday. A long-standing member of the Ruairi Og club he will be a huge loss to Cushendall and Antrim GAA. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.