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Sunday 4 December 2016

From prince of Croke Park to a catwalk king ... Jack McCaffrey walks the walk for his paralysed friend

Opel GAA/GPA Player of the Year nominee Jack McCaffrey with TV presenter Pamela Flood at the launch of The Jonathan Ranson Trust Fashion Show. Pic: Naoise Culhan
Opel GAA/GPA Player of the Year nominee Jack McCaffrey with TV presenter Pamela Flood at the launch of The Jonathan Ranson Trust Fashion Show. Pic: Naoise Culhan

Jack McCaffrey has enjoyed quite the year. League, Leinster and All-Ireland winner. A shoo-in, surely, for his first All Star award and a hotly fancied nominee for Footballer of the Year too. There is one box left to tick, though: that of catwalk king.

We're being serious - almost as serious as the reason for McCaffrey's fleeting conversion to male modelling.

On Sunday week, October 18, over 350 guests will pack out the Hilton Hotel in Charlemont Place for the Jonathan Ranson Trust Fashion Show (throw-in/strut-off 7pm). McCaffrey will be among those walking the walk.

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"Jonathan's a good friend of mine," he explains. "We grew up a stone's throw from each other and his birthday is just five days after mine.

"We were in a good, close group of friends growing up; we went to school together, played Gaelic together and did everything together. In 2014 he was over in San Diego on a J1, and he broke his spine and has been paralysed since.

"I didn't need to be asked twice to get involved as he's a good, loyal friend who would do anything for any of us - so this is the least we could do."

You can click into the website, www.teamjonathanranson.com, to read about Jonathan's story, the progress already achieved since his life-changing injury and also his promise to "keep fighting to live the fullest life I can".

For his friend, currently being feted for his dynamic contribution to Dublin's all-conquering season, it puts football into perspective.

"I actually found out about it after one of the games in the championship ... we were out having a few drinks as a team," McCaffrey recounts.

Filtering

"I got a phone call off my dad and he asked me if I'd heard anything about Jonathan and at that stage I hadn't. The next day, news started filtering back. Look, for nine-ten months of the year football is your everything and you get put into a bubble.

"But it's very, very important to realise, at the end of the day, it's 30 grown men running around a field chasing a ball so you can't take it too seriously."

The nearest he has come to a catwalk previously is the All-Ireland final parade. "You're just going around with a big smile on your face and the pressure kind of just evaporates then and the nerves go out the window," he says of that experience. "I've never done anything like this before so it should be interesting."

As for the plaudits that have rained down since Dublin's All-Ireland defeat of Kerry, the Clontarf flyer describes it as "very humbling". He adds: "The only reason any of us are getting any personal praise is because of the hard work the 35 lads have put in all summer.

"While I do really enjoy the individual stuff, and it is a big honour, it's all built on the team."

Before the All Stars, and even before his fashion parade, McCaffrey will be on a different stage this weekend - International Rules training.

"It was flagged with me a while back and I weighed up the pros and cons," he says. "But there's always more pros than cons when it comes to lining out for your country, so I jumped at the opportunity."

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