David Clifford takes the game to Stewartstown. [Photos: Inpho/Bryan Keane]

Cliffords win, but football loses

Fossa 0-19; Stewartstown 1-13

This match was a headline act for all the right, and then all the wrong, reasons.

 First you just look at what the Clifford brothers have achieved in the past 13 months to see all that is good and heroic in football… and then you see the end to this game which had six players sent off and you despair that it was an occasion when the GAA lost out on what should have been a red-letter day.

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 For David Clifford in particular and his elder brother Paudie, the past year and a bit has seen some haul of personal and team silverware enter their family home. Starting off with a low-key McGrath Cup success with Kerry, they went on to win National League, Munster and All Ireland medals in the Kingdom colors while also winning county, provincial and All Ireland titles with Fossa.

  Throw in the several man of the match awards both picked up and their All Stars and David’s Gaelic footballer of the year award nationally and you can see why there may be need for an extension in that household to house all the trophies.

 Sunday was no different on the playing front as the two starred in red for their club at Croke Park and guided them to a three-point win over an opponent whose will to win bordered on the fanaticism at times.

This led to four of the Ulster side seeing red while such was the attention on David Clifford that he inexplicably accumulated two yellow cards and had to leave the field before the referee blew the long whistle signalling the end of the game.

 On this occasion, he again was the pied piper as his 11-point haul, on top  of the two his brother shot over from centre back, was the reason the side had that slight enough margin of victory at the end.

Stewartstown did everything in their power to keep him and the ball divorced from one another and for their efforts, ended up with only 11 players left on the pitch, with three of the Tyrone team dispatched on straight reds.

I suppose you have to try to drown a man who walks on water but as they found out, you end up with your feet wet and drowning yourself.

Tempers flared between the teams.

Their tactic to put two to three men on him at all times obviously  didn’t work although the northern side was well drilled when in possession themselves in getting the ball quickly out of defense and into the attacking territory.

With Darren Devlin taking primary responsibility in the marking stakes, Connor Quinn was never far away as a shadow and it looked like it might work early doors when the Tyrone men led by 0-4 to 0-2 inside the first quarter.

A goal six minutes before the break by the Ulster side as Devlin took advantage of hesitancy in the last lines of defense to bang the ball into the empty net from close range. When Macauley Quinn deserted his midfield post to run through for his second score, it meant the Kerry boys were four points down approaching half time and maybe in danger of being overrun. Clifford knocked over another score to reduce the interval deficit to three, but by now they knew they were in a battle.

True to form, the brothers stood up from the off in the second half by shooting two early points and David almost lobbed a goal but had to settle for a point. Then when Emmet O’Shea sent a 45 straight and true to take the lead and almost immediately defender Devlin got his marching order with a straight red, the tide had  turned in favour of the Kingdom representatives.

The days of the Kerry dancing exploded as both Cliffords added two fine points but there was still no sign of the Harps club throwing in the towel.

Dan Lowe put the cat among the pigeons with a fine point on the 49th minutes and when , Cian O’Shea was almost immediately black carded, it looked as if there might be another twist in the tale.

Clifford is not the best player in the country by chance and when the big questions were asked he stood up with two fine scores with both O’Shea and Buckley also landing scores to break the Tyrone hearts.

By now Stewartstown were  listing in the water and Anton Coyle and Kyran Robinson both saw red as the team lost its discipline while  top scorer Devlin departed the scene on a second yellow.

The ugly side of the game continued as Clifford the younger was held on the ground by two players and yet he walked as a victim of two yellows when it shouldn’t have happened. His brother Paudie also had his day of glory on the pitch cut short by referee Thomas Murphy.

Victory though spawns forgiveness and the brothers accepted they were through a hard encounter without going any further in the post match interviews.

Fossa: S O’Sullivan; B Myers, F Coffey, K McCarthy; D O’Keefe, P Clifford (0-2), D O’Connell; E Talbot, P Sheehan; H Buckley (0-3), M Rennie, C O’Shea; R Doyle, D Clifford (0-11, 0-3f), E O’Shea (0-03, 1 ’45) Subs: R Colleran for McCarthy (h-t), T O’Shea for Doyle (55), K Buckley for H Buckley (62), M Dennehy for O’Keefe (67).

Stewartstown: G Kelly; J Park, D Devlin, C Quinn (0-1); K Robinson, M Rooney, G O’Neill; S Talbot (0-2), M Quinn (0-2); D McElhatton, Q O’Neill, T Rush; D Lowe (0-3, 0-2f), G Devlin (1-5, 0-3f), T Lowe Subs: A Coyle for T Lowe (46), C Devlin for D Lowe (52).

Ref: T Murphy (Galway).