We’ll begin with the final scoreline at the end of yesterday’s contest. The 6-17 racked up by Kerry was the highest ever total posted by a team in an All-Ireland minor final. The six goals, too, equalled the feat of the Kerry class of 1962.
As for the winning margin of 24 points, that too was a record, trumping Dublin’s 5-14 to 2-2 rout of Leitrim in the 1956 decider. What it also meant is that no team to come up against Peter Keane’s charges this year kept the margin of defeat in single-digit territory.
Clare were battered by 13 and 24 points in the Munster first round and final, respectively, Cork were 10 adrift in the Munster semi-final, as were Louth in the All-Ireland quarter-final, with Cavan 12 short in the All-Ireland semi-final. Their average winning margin come 3pm yesterday stood at a whopping 15 points.
There wasn’t so much as a glove laid on them during the past six months. A historic four-in-a-row achieved with frightening ease.
Now, if you thought those figures were impressive, wait until you see David Clifford’s numbers.
We stand open to correction here, but we doubt there has ever been a player to notch 4-4 from play on All-Ireland final day. The Kerry captain had 4-37 to his name coming into this contest. Add on the eight scores that sucked the life out of Derry and his championship contribution rises to 8-41. That’s roughly 1-7 per game.
Factoring in his scoring exploits last year, Clifford put 10-68 between the posts en-route to picking up back-to-back All-Ireland medals.
The first of his four goals yesterday arrived no later than 10 seconds in. Kerry won the throw ball, Barry Mahony punted it in long, Clifford gathered, turned this way and that before employing the left boot to place the ball into the corner of Oran Hartin’s goal. The simplicity of the score was rather wonderful. And yet from a Derry perspective, it pointed to a very long and chastening afternoon at GAA HQ.
Jack Griffin, set up by Clifford, should have had a second Kerry goal, but he drilled narrowly wide at the Hill 16 end.
Two white flags from Mark McGrogan and a decent Lorcan McWilliams kick pared the deficit back to the minimum with 11 minutes run on the clock. That was as competitive as proceedings got, that was the limited extent to which Derry troubled — or at least attempted to trouble — the favourites.
Derry goalkeeper Hartin repelled a Jack Griffin effort but was powerless to stop Clifford’s second a minute later. Having been fouled by Conor McCluskey, referee Anthony Nolan afforded Clifford the advantage to see could he make anything of the situation. And true to form, the Fossa talent rounded the Derry full-back and poked the ball past the onrushing Hartin.
On the quarter-hour mark, he split the opposition defence in two with a delightful through ball that was snapped up by Fiachra Clifford. 3-2 to 0-4. The next five points were kicked by young men wearing green and yellow, the half-time scoreline reading 3-8 to 0-5.
Fiachra Clifford, with the help of Michael Potts, banged in their fourth goal six minutes into the second period. Patrick Quigg converted a Derry penalty on 39 minutes following a foul on sub Callum Brown. That was to prove their last score until second-half stoppages.
By that juncture, David Clifford had twice more found the net. The last of the bunch was the stuff of genius. Having failed to hold Dónal O’Sullivan’s pass, he gathered the ball at the second attempt and took two defenders out of the equation with a single bounce.
“Words can’t describe it, to be honest,” was Clifford’s reaction not long after the final whistle. “I don’t actually have a clue what to say. We were expecting a more defensive set-up from Derry. Maybe it is a good thing that they didn’t do it.”
Barry Mahony, Diarmuid O’Connor, Dónal O’Sullivan, Fiachra Clifford and Brian Friel made for a fine supporting cast. This, however, was the David Clifford show. And no one was left disappointed.
David Clifford (4-4); F Clifford (2-0); B Friel (0-5, 0-1 free); D O’Sullivan (0-3); J Griffin (0-2); A Donoghue, E Horan, Donnchadh O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
P Quigg (1-1); L McWilliams (0-2, 0-1 free), O McWilliams, M McGrogan (0-2 each); R Mullan (0-1).
D Uosis (Dingle); C O’Donoghue (Glenflesk); M Potts (Dr Crokes); S O’Leary (Kilcummin); C Gammell (Legion), P Warren (Gneeveguilla), N Donohue (Firies); B Mahony (St Senan’s), D O’Connor (Na Gaeil); A Donoghue (Castleisland Desmonds), B Friel (Rathmore), F Clifford (Laune Rangers); J Griffin (Dr Crokes), D Clifford (Fossa), D O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan).
E Horan (Scartaglen) for Griffin (44 mins); Donnchadh O’Sullivan (Firies) for O’Sullivan (49); C O’Reilly (Austin Stacks) for F Clifford (53); M O’Leary (Renard) for Gammell (56); R O’Neill (Na Gaeil) for Donohue (57); M Slattery (Austin Stacks) for Donoghue (59).
O Hartin (Limavady); O McGill (Glen), C McCluskey (Magherafelt), S McKeever (Dungiven); C McShane (Bellaghy), S McErlain (Magherafelt), P McGrogan (Newbridge); O McWilliams (Swatragh), D Rafferty (Drumsurn); R Mullan (Dungiven), M Bradley (Ballinascreen), P Quigg (Kilrea); M McGrogan (Newbridge), L McWilliams (Swatragh), B McCarron (Steelstown).
C Brown (Limavady) for Rafferty, C Quinn (Bellaghy) for McCarron, D Cassidy (Bellaghy) for McCluskey (all HT); O Quinn (Bellaghy) for McShane (39); T McHugh (Drumsurn) for Mullan, JP Devlin (Ballinascreen) for McGrogan (both 42).
A Nolan (Wicklow).