Everyone here in the Red Chair team is so proud of our colleague Paudie and the rest of the Kerry team for winning on Sunday against Galway.
ON THE steps of the Hogan Stand, the Clifford boys stood shoulder to shoulder to lift Sam Maguire.
An ear of the old chalice in each hand, the Fossa brothers saluted a job well done. Below them, Kerry celebrated Sam’s return but for Paudie Clifford the overarching emotion was relief.
If this Kerry side had been through the mill then Paudie had been on a journey of his own. The Kingdom had heartbreak and near misses over the last few seasons but in the midst of that, and with his brother coming up to national acclaim, Paudie had to establish himself.
“I always enjoyed playing with my club, so that was what kept me going,” Clifford said of the times he was overlooked by Kerry.
“When I played with my club, I loved it and we had great craic and we had craic after games and craic at training.
“So there was never anyone to say anything like, ‘oh, you’re not going to play football any more’. All I had to do was play well, keep doing my thing and just hope that maybe I would get called up.”
It was with East Kerry that he made his name. Back-to-back county championship wins put him in the spotlight.
“They were the key because they put me on the map and they showed, because you were marking some of the backs in county championship games that were playing for us on Sunday, and I was doing relatively well. So you’re getting more belief yourself and obviously the management can see that too, so yeah, they were the main things that counted.”
Was this All-Ireland win a reward for his perseverance?
“That’s probably a good way to describe it,” he continued.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of years of not being picked and yeah, a lot of failures along the way. But it feels good now, yeah.”
A transformation of sorts so from being surplus to requirements for Kerry to being a key man for both Peter Keane and Jack O’Connor these last two seasons. Some of that Clifford puts down to his physical improvements.
“Whoever I’m marking, I just kind of think, keep wearing them down and keep . . . like, in the first half, it was tight and they got bodies back, and they got them back them fast and there just wasn’t much space.
“I just had to keep at it and often the games do open up more in the second half, when bodies are getting a bit tired, and teams are bringing on subs who mightn’t be quite as tuned into the game-plan as the starters. Sometimes they are but there are times when they’re not.”
Clfford felt Kerry were in a good position at half-time.
“We didn’t play that well in the first half and the wide count was 7-1 so obviously if we had scored our chances it would have been different.
“They (the wides) weren’t actually difficult chances, they were easy enough but at the same time we did have to improve and we did.
“We just stuck to what we’ve been doing all year. We know it’s a 75-minute game and we know to stick to the process, we have done a lot of work on all the facets of the game and we knew that if we were there or thereabouts with 15-20 minutes to go we would have a good chance of coming out on the right side of it.”
“It’s a good feeling all right. It’s relief more than anything, really. Just to get over the line . . . we knew how tough the game was going to be and we’re just delighted to get through it.”