Geaney: Clifford can handle captaincy burden

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By Paul Keane

Paul Geaney remembers several late nights in Páidí Ó Sé’s bar in Ventry when the man himself dropped him home afterwards to Dingle.

“Or close enough to home anyway,” smiled Geaney who, two years after the legendary Kerry figure’s passing in 2012, began dating Siún Ní Shé, Páidí’s daughter.

Now there’s a little Páidí running around and in years to come he may even follow his father and grandfather by pulling on the green and gold. Certainly the bloodlines are strong.

“He’s just turned three,” said Geaney.

He’s all about dinosaurs at the moment, I don’t know will that change to football. There’ll be no pressure on him from us anyway.

It was little Páidí’s grandfather who famously pointed out while managing the Kingdom what an expectant group their supporters are.

“It’s in there somewhere I think,” said Geaney when asked if the fans are still the same.

Crucially, there hasn’t been any major backlash from frustrated supporters after last September’s All-Ireland loss and as Kerry gear up for a new season, the vibes appear to be positive.

“It (supporters’ frustration) might come out again and you know, you’d be frustrated for it not to come out because that’s the level that we want to be at, to be expected to be winning the All-Ireland,” said attacker Geaney.

The Dingle publican is in a good position to take the pulse of the Kerry football scene and weigh up expectation levels.

“For the supporters, I think last year was a complete outlier because of a number of things, a new manager coming in and so many new players coming in as well. Even though it wasn’t a completely new-look team, it was a new-look approach in a lot of ways, and the Kerry public were very patient with that and I think they enjoyed the run in the league where we weren’t perfect in any game but we fought tooth and nail in a lot of the games.”

For Geaney, the closest Kerry got to being perfect all year was against Mayo in the Super 8s.

“You probably saw us at our peak that day,” said the full-forward who scored 0-3. “We were incredible that day down in Killarney, maybe Mayo were a bit off too with the hard road of the backdoor and all that but we were fantastic and the Kerry folk loved that day. I think a sun-splitting Killarney is probably the best venue you can play in when the place is packed and that atmosphere is there, which we hadn’t had because we hadn’t had a Munster final in a couple of years.”

David Clifford’s rise from boy to man in double quick time is another source of satisfaction among supporters and part of the reason they’re optimistic about 2020. Whether the captaincy burdens the Fossa man or inspires him remains to be seen but all the indicators are that his shoulders are broad.

“I didn’t break into the team until maybe 24 and before that, physically, I wasn’t able for that level, I wasn’t I’d say conditioned,” said 2014 All-Ireland winner Geaney, who places Clifford in an elite group of football phenoms.

“I suppose he had the physical attributes to be able to do it and to step up, his ranginess. It was like Michael Murphy when he came out of minor, Aidan O’Shea in Mayo, strong fellas that were ready for senior football physically.”

Geaney’s only note of caution to supporters is about Jim Gavin’s departure in Dublin, insisting it shouldn’t be viewed as something that weakens the five-in-a-row All-Ireland winners or necessarily throws open a window of opportunity.

Dublin may make that point themselves on Saturday night at Croke Park when Dessie Farrell takes charge of his first Allianz League game.

“They’re still the same team,” said Geaney. “I know it’s a cliche but it’s about looking after ourselves and trying to get to the level we didn’t get to in the end last year. I think with the development and the development curve, the age profile of our players … like, it was clear as day in the last five minutes of the first All-Ireland, when they were a man down and they pressed us and probably just maybe the lack of a year or two of conditioning at that time, you know, it’s a big thing.

“A 21-year-old compared to a 22-year-old, even the few months, a winter or a few months of conditioning and weightlifting makes a big difference there. I think those last five minutes when we were pressed in and we couldn’t get past sed midfield nearly, you know, improve those things in our own game and you win the game.

“That’s the difference between winning an All-Ireland and not winning an All-Ireland. Maybe just being a bit cuter as well.”

Paul Geaney remembers several late nights in Páidí Ó Sé’s bar in Ventry when the man himself dropped him home afterwards to Dingle.

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