Preseason 2018

Can the AFL Lure Ireland’s Prized Young Star Down Under?

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Gaelic football’s new wonder-kid David Clifford is quickly becoming one of the most talked about young talents in the Australian Football League. His recent success at junior level has Aussie scouts keeping a watchful eye on the 18-year old as they look to snatch him away from the game he has grown up playing his entire life. Supporters, teammates and his coach Peter Keane are wary of losing their star man and have been keeping tabs on all interested parties.

The exciting young prospect grew up watching Kerry GAA, and now he is enjoying life playing for his beloved club. The rising star has been in phenomenal form of late and only just recently helped his side to an All-Ireland minor final victory over Derry. His commanding haul of 4-04 etched the club’s name into the record books as they became the first county to win four All-Ireland minor titles in a row.

It was his outstanding 2017 campaign that caught the interest of other clubs in Australia, finishing up the year with 8-41. The six-foot-two player certainly has the height and size to make it in the AFL and, at only 18 years of age, he still has a few years to develop his build even more.

When asked whether or not Keane was worried about losing Clifford, the coach hinted that he was confident in holding onto his man. A few years ago, Kerry’s minor captain Mark O’Conner was snapped up by Aussie scouts in a move that left a few passionate fans with a sour taste in their mouth.

The Geelong Cats acquired the signature of the defender in 2015, who has recently put in a couple of terrific performances on the field. It’s a testament to the quality coming out of Gaelic football that such high-profile clubs like the Cats are so keen to grab these potential superstars. Geelong are one of the biggest clubs in the competition and are looking like real title contenders for next year. As of 8th December, they are 10.00 to win the competition according to bookmakers Betway, which makes them the fifth favourite overall to lift the trophy next season.

The success of other Irish players within the AFL is definitely something that Gaelic football supporters are becoming increasingly concerned about. Avid followers of the sport would like to see more young players pledging their allegiance to the sport instead of looking for higher salaries elsewhere.

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The Irish Experiment

The so-called ‘Irish Experiment’, which started during the 1990s, has seen many Gaelic football players make the transition to AFL due to the similarities between the two sports. The first major success using this technique was Jim Stynes, who made the move to Victoria where he plied his trade for the Melbourne Demons. He even went on to win the prestigious Brownlow Medal award and notch up an impressive 264 games for the club.

Tadhg Kennelly was probably the most high-profile player to make the switch when he was signed by the Sydney Swans in 1999. He enjoyed tremendous success with the club and went on to help the team win the competition in 2005, becoming the first Irish player to win an AFL premiership medallion.

Potential Destinations

So, if one of the Australian teams did happen to pinch him away from his homeland, which club would he best be suited to? Surely, with his speed and accuracy up front, it would have to be a team with a quick and commanding midfield that has the ability to get the ball to him as much as possible.

The Richmond Tigers spring to mind as a possible place for David to get adjusted to AFL life. Imagine him lining up in front of Dustin Martin and Trent Cochin as they weaved freely through the center of the park, offloading it forwards to an eager and ready Clifford.

Another would have to be Geelong, a team that would help him mature as a player as well as teaching him how to drop back into a midfield role while switching with teammates as they push up the field. Not to mention the absolute fountain of knowledge that comes with having Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood, and Patrick Dangerfield playing just behind you. The trio of three have notched up an incredible 763 games between them and would be a massive help to any young player trying to adjust to the game.

Whether or not he eventually decides to make the move down under will be a huge decision for the player. Friends and family will obviously play a major part in his decision for the future, as well as the financial opportunities offered to him if he makes the switch. One thing is for sure though, he is an amazing talent, and wherever he ends up we look forward to watching him dazzle us in the future.

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