Footballer of the Year Clifford hoping to right wrongs of 2023
By John Harrington
GAA.ie sat down with 2023 GAA/GPA PwC Footballer of the Year, David Clifford, to ask him how much the award meant to him and reminisce on Kerry's All-Ireland Winning year.
Q: David, you're the first person to ever be crowned Footballer of the Year for two years running. What does it mean to you?
David Clifford: 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.
Q: Has the disappointment of the All-Ireland Final defeat faded at all?
DC: I wouldn't say the disappointment goes away, it's just that other things come to the forefront such as club games and work that takes your mind off it. But, look, different things happen throughout the course of a week and you kind of get drawn back to it. So, ultimately the disappointment is still there and probably will always be there. But there's also a strong feeling of wanting to get back at it and right the wrongs of this year.
Q: Have you chatted about the All-Ireland Final yet as a group?
DC: We've had a couple of meetings here and there, but there's probably not a whole point of value in meeting as a team yet because you don't have the time to change it. When we get back at it as a group we'll be able to really try to address and work on things we need to.
Q: Are you the sort of sportsperson who obsesses more about the mistakes he made in games and the losses rather than the great moments and victories?
DC: Absolutely, yeah. If you ask any sportsperson about any part of their career they'll probably remember the losses more. When you don't perform in a game or miss chances as it was in my case there's a lot of frustration with it, you know what I mean? A lot of frustration and there's nothing you can really do about it apart from keep working at it and keep practicing and try to be better the next day.
Q: How did you process those misses? Did you maybe go down to the field and kick a few balls from those positions?
DC: Yerra, yeah. The great thing about football is that there's always another game, there's always a club game, so you probably get plenty of opportunities to work on it those games and in club training. So, yeah, it's probably how I got back at it. I just got back down to club training and playing the club games.
Q: Your club Fossa have a big match this weekend, the Kerry Intermediate Final. It's been an incredible couple of seasons for the club. What do you put the rise of Fossa down to? Is there a lot of work going on in the background?
DC: Yeah, huge. I suppose, number one, it comes down to the work that's been done at underage level in the club over the past 15 years or so. There's a couple of people in the club who really put a huge emphasis on the underage structures. Numbers have risen too, and that has fed into our senior set-up.
A lot of it also comes down to our senior management, Adrian Sheehan and the lads, and obviously bringing in Eamonn Fitzmaurice then was a massive help. Just I suppose in terms of bringing in a style of play that suits us. A style of play that makes us hard to beat. And then it comes down to the players, really, especially when myself and Paudie haven't been available. When they got promoted to Division 2 of the County League, a back to back promotion. That was a huge thing, the level the lads got to who aren't involved with Kerry or East Kerry, their level has come on an awful lot. But, look it, ultimately if we don't get over the line on Sunday, not a whole pile of that will matter.
Q: Was the semi-final win over Austin Stacks one of the sweetest days of your career so far?
DC: Ah yeah, absolutely. I suppose we would never have really been on each other's radar in terms of Fossa and Stacks. East Kerry would have played Stacks plenty of times, but not Fossa. Just to be playing Stacks and to get over the line was great. Now, Stacks were down a lot of boys on the day, but still it was a brilliant win.
Q: It's obviously been a very tough year for your whole family with your mother Ellen passing away. I'd imagine every time you pull on a Fossa, East Kerry, or Kerry jersey she's in your thoughts?
DC: Absolutely, absolutely. It's been a very tough year and it still is tough but I suppose you're just trying to go out and give your best and obviously for Kerry because that's what she would have wanted us to do.
Q: How big an influence was she, not just as a mother, but in terms of your football career? I'd imagine she was a huge person behind the scenes?
DC: Huge, huge. 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 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.
Q: It was nice the way on the day of the Munster Final your team-mates were clearly minding you and Paudie. Did that mean a lot to you?
DC: It did, absolutely. Look, we always knew we were a very close group with Kerry but just seeing the support that the lads gave us on that day and since that day, it's very special and it makes us feel very connected to the group. I'm vastly thankful to all the lads and to Jack and all the management too.
Q: The fact that you are a tight group and this year's final came down to fine margins, presumably you can't wait to get back at it in 2024?
DC: Absolutely. Everyone needs a down-time in the off-season and needs a bit of a break away from the whole thing but I suppose we're really, really anxious now to get going and have a good full pre-season and hit the ground running next year.