IRELAND'S potential next great AFL export will perform in front of 80,000-plus fans on one of Gaelic football's biggest stages on Sunday.
Kerry's David Clifford, considered the Irish game's brightest talent in many years, will lead his county into battle against Derry as it chases an historic fourth-straight All-Ireland minor football championship.
The 18-year-old was at the heart of a war of words in May between former Gaelic star-turned-Sydney premiership defender Tadhg Kennelly and Kerry legend Tomàs Ó Sé.
Ó Sé was critical in his Irish Independent column of Kennelly's role in luring Gaelic footballers to the AFL, sparking significant debate and prompting Ireland's AFL stars to support Kennelly.
Clifford, a powerful and skilful athlete of about 190cm, is yet to publicly discuss any interest in an AFL career, but there is already fear in his homeland that he will attempt to make the leap.
Most Irish AFL footballers are in the half-back mould – think Kennelly, Zach Tuohy, Pearce Hanley and Conor McKenna – whereas Clifford is more akin to ex-Saint and Swan Tommy Walsh.
One expert familiar with the Gaelic-to-AFL route told AFL.com.au uprooting Clifford from the Irish scene would be difficult. Gaelic football is an amateur sport, but its biggest stars command substantial sponsorship, education and job opportunities.
"Is David Clifford the best Gaelic player for his age in the country? Probably. But does the first pick in the AFL always turn out to be the best player? Not necessarily," the expert said.
"There are Irish players who've been successful here who weren't the best player in Ireland. There's more to it than that.
"So right now, he stacks up as a pretty enticing prospect, that's for sure, but convincing him that (playing AFL is) the right thing to do for what arguably is going to be the best Gaelic footballer for a long time is the challenge."
There were 13 Irishmen on AFL lists this season, although West Coast's Paddy Brophy quit in April to return home.
Cillian McDaid and Stefan Okunbor are attending the NAB AFL Draft Combine in October, while countrymen David Shaw and Evan Murphy joined them in training with the AFL Academy in Florida in January.
North Melbourne also trialled Irish pair Rian O'Neill and Jack Kennedy in August with a view to potentially signing at least one of them as an international rookie.