Clifford a strong contender to assume Kerry football captaincy for 2020

New county champions East Kerry have the honour of nominating Kingdom skipper

David Clifford celebrates scoring a goal for East Kerry against Dr Crokes in the Kerry championship final at Austin Stack Park, Tralee. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

There has often been some idiosyncrasy around being the Kerry football captain and David Clifford may well become the latest in line.

Kerry are one of the last counties to afford their county champions the honour of nominating the team captaincy – similarly with Kilkenny in hurling – only it’s not always a straightforward process. Nor indeed is their county championship.

East Kerry ended their 20-year wait for that title on Sunday, beating three-time defending champions Dr Crokes in a fairly rousing contest as Austin Stack Park in Tralee. As one of the nine divisional or district teams, however, East Kerry don’t get the honour of representing Kerry in the Munster club championship (Dr Crokes, had they won, would have got both honours).

Instead, given the equally idiosyncratic nature of the Kerry championship, that honour now goes back Austin Stacks, who won the eight-team Division One club title back in early May (before being knocked out of the county championship by East Kerry back in September).


It means Austin Stacks are back in action this Sunday, facing Cork champions Nemo Rangers (Cork) in one Munster semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn (1.30pm); Miltown-Malbay (Clare) face Clonmel Commercials (Tipperary) in the other semi-final at Miltown-Malbay (1.30pm).

Back to the Kerry captaincy, and having recently won his back-to-back All Star, Clifford chipped in with 1-3 on Sunday, older brother Paudie equally influential, and given his already pivotal and assured place in the Kerry team would appear the most likely candidate for that captaincy in 2020.

Except that he’s still only 20, and doesn’t turn 21 until January, which would make him the youngest Kerry captain in some time, if indeed ever. It may also add some further weight to his still young shoulders.

There are others for East Kerry to consider: Jack Sherwood showed again on Sunday that’s rediscovered his best defensive qualities, although there is no guarantee he’ll be a starter with Kerry next year; likewise with Dara Moynihan, who didn’t feature on Sunday but also showed plenty of his potential this summer under Kerry manager Peter Keane.

Some traditions die hard in the GAA, especially with Kerry football, and while the captaincy issue was raised again last year, that honour remains with East Kerry.

There was debate about tradition this year too, when Gavin White was nominated captain by Dr Crokes: at 22, he had never played a single league game for Kerry, and while he did start the drawn All-Ireland final against Dublin, didn’t start the replay – and Paul Murphy took over the captaincy instead.

Not yet featuring in the league is explained by the fact White was off preparing with Dr Crokes for another All-Ireland club championship final, having been involved since their title last win in 2017. Prior to that Micheál Burns briefly held the Kerry captaincy on behalf of Dr Crokes, and later admitted that burden may have impacted on his game.

Murphy, meanwhile, may also come into contention, after his club, Rathmore, were relegated from the senior ranks and therefore rejoin the East Kerry divisional team next year. Such is Kerry tradition.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics