Kerry star David Clifford retains Footballer of Year award; Derry's Ethan Doherty wins Young version

David Clifford receives his Footballer of the Year award from GPA chief executive, Tom Parsons Picture: Sportsfile
David Clifford receives his Footballer of the Year award from GPA chief executive, Tom Parsons Picture: Sportsfile

THE finest forward of his generation, Kerry's David Clifford, has become the first player to win back-to-back PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year Awards.

The Fossa phenomenon was voted 2023’s best footballer ahead of Dublin’s Brian Fenton and Derry’s Brendan Rogers, the accolade coming from the membership of the GPA.

Clifford admitted to mixed feelings after losing the All-Ireland SFC Final to Dublin, saying of his individual award: "Ah yeah, it's a nice honour. Maybe it's something you'll more so look back on at the end of your career. Ultimately, we didn't win the All-Ireland and that's all that will stick out from 2023. But it's something that's probably nice for your family and something to maybe look back on yourself at the end of your career."

Speaking of family, Clifford paid tribute to his mother Ellen, who passed away earlier this year: “She would have done everything for us. In terms of advice or talking about matches, that wasn't her thing. She always knew that we didn't need that from her and she didn't want to be that kind of a mother.

“I suppose it was the support she always gave us that was the big thing. No matter what we were doing, she would have always backed us. Even if were wrong in different situations, we were always right in her eyes. So it was always great to have that sort of support.”

Aaron Gillane became the fourth consecutive Limerick winner of the PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year Award, chosen ahead of two colleagues from the Treaty County, last year’s choice Diarmaid Byrnes and Kyle Hayes.


That completes a remarkable hat-trick for the Patrickswell club, from which Gillane, Byrnes, and Cian Lynch (winner in 2021 and 2018) all hail.

Gillane paid tribute to his club, commenting: "Even from a young age with the club, all the coaches we've had up along, and there's too many of them to name, they've all had such a huge effect not just on me, but the likes of Cian and Diarmaid who would say the exact same thing.

"I am very grateful to my club because they've given us the platform to go and get exposure and go on to bigger and better things with Limerick. It's great to be able to bring awards like this to Patrickswell, they all deserve it."

Derry’s night of delight, after collecting four football Allstars earlier in the evening, was completed when Ethan Doherty was selected as Young Footballer of the Year. The wing-forward from Glen, Maghera earned the nod ahead of his county colleague Eoin McEvoy and Conor Carroll of Roscommon.

Doherty becomes the first Young Footballer winner from Ulster since Donegal’s Ryan McHugh in 2014, and the first ever from Derry since the award’s instigation in 1997.

The Young Hurler of the Year nod went to Mark Rodgers of Clare, becoming the first winner from the Banner County since Tony Kelly a decade ago, and only their second ever, ending a recent run of Kilkenny dominance of that accolade.


David Clifford is now halfway to becoming the record football Allstar winner, sitting on five – that still leaves him four behind Kerry legend Pat Spillane.

Although he’s the first player to retain the PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year trophy, others did do likewise with the Texaco Footballer of the Year accolade, awarded from 1959 to 2011.

That places Clifford in great company: Kerry great Jack O’Shea had back-to-backs twice, in 1980-81 and again in 1984-85. Down legend James McCartan Sr was the first man to do that double, in 1960 and 1961, while Dublin’s Jimmy Keaveney did likewise in 1976 and 1977.

In this year’s Football Allstars, the four Derrymen honoured were defenders Conor McCluskey and Gareth McKinless, midfielder Brendan Rogers, and forward Shane McGuigan, who finished as top scorer overall in the Championship.

All-Ireland winners Dublin received five awards, beaten finalists Kerry four, with one apiece for Monaghan – Conor McCarthy – and Roscommon – Enda Smith.