AN emphatic opening day statement from Kerry, and affirmation that the genius of David Clifford is alive and kicking.
A hat-trick of goals, embellishing a total of 3-6 against Galway, was no bad opening day return from The Special One but in checking the time and assist for his third goal, a drag back and sumptuous finish, one is tempted to quote Hugh McIlvanney's George Best moment at Old Trafford in 1964: Never mind the time, son, write down the date.
Clifford has had his mortal moments, which is oddly encouraging, but they were few and far between in Tralee on Saturday. Three goals from as many attempts, four points from play, and two placed balls. The perfect GAA hat-trick.
He declared on 50 minutes, the Kerry management sparing him for Dublin and Galway from further torture.
Clifford is into his fourth campaign and hopefully that one-time notion of Aussie Rules is long forgotten for he is Gaelic football’s golden boy and greatest asset.
Kerry’s ten-point interval lead seemed greater still, such was the yawning chasm between the sides. Galway’s management has plenty to ponder before next weekend’s Connacht derby at home to Roscommon. Everyone brought uncertainty into this belated season, but their need to get up to pace suddenly has an urgency to it – a 22-point dosing at the hands of a side they might have beaten in the corresponding fixture last season is sobering - even if ultimately they will be judged on their July Championship meeting with the Rossies.
Kerry didn’t so much fly out of the traps as catapult themselves into the task of putting last winter firmly in the rearview mirror – the propulsion provided, primarily, by the Clifford brothers.
Kerry supporters have waited more than a while for Paudie Clifford to join his illustrious brother in a starting line up for the county, injuries being the spoiler. But the 25-year-old showed his spikey worth with a busy opening half and combined with David for 2-5 of Kerry’s total. He has that edge to his game and was booked again today, but he looks a worth addition to Peter Keane’s attacking arsenal.
Everything about the Kingdom was brisk and business-like. Only the hyper-critical would point out that they also fluffed three gilt-edged goal chances to make it an opening half masterclass, Paudie Clifford, Gavin White and Dara Moynihan the outliers.
Galway, in truth, looked miles off it from the get-go, Padraic Joyce shuffling the pack as early as the 25th minute with Johnny Heaney and returning midfielder Peter Cooke making way.
Kerry’s machine-gun movement and quality finishing had them 1-6 to 0-2 in front after 15 minutes, and 2-9 to 0-4 two minutes shy of the break.
Galway couldn’t come to terms with Paudie Clifford dropping deep, nor with the inside movement of his brother and Killian Spillane, who claimed four first half points. Indeed, Kerry’s inside line ran in an impressive 2-9 of their 2-10 half-time – and all from play!
David Clifford rose at the back post to fist home the opening goal on 15 minutes, Sean O’Shea with the assist, and Moynihan could have had a second 40 seconds later before Killian Spillane mopped up the afters with a fisted point. Moynihan was again involved five minutes later for the second goal when he delayed the pass losing enough for Paudie Clifford to come off the shoulder and finish impressively. If it was in the ring, Joyce may have fired in the white towel.