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Thursday 8 December 2016

I wanted to play every game - Jack

Food poisoning caused bizarre end to 'funny year' for McCaffrey

McCaffrey in action for the Blues
McCaffrey in action for the Blues

Jack McCaffrey spent the last five minutes of the All-Ireland final balanced on all fours, puking his ring all over the Dublin substitute's area.

An image befitting as a climactic backdrop to what, in the peculiar sense, he describes as "a funny year," albeit one which concluded with his anointment as Footballer of the Year.

It goes back to "a dodgy chicken curry" on the Thursday night before the All-Ireland final…but more of that later.

First, it's pertinent to discover how Jack McCaffrey got his mojo back.

"I suppose that 2014, from an individual point of view, didn't go as well for me," he recalled this week in conversation with the Herald.

"Part of the reason for that was, after winning the All-Ireland in 2013, I wasn't starting in the early rounds of the League and I thought 'ah, it's fine. I played in an All-Ireland six months ago, I won't worry about that.'

Discussion

"Then the first Championship game I wasn't starting and I was thinking 'it's grand, I'll get in.'"

He did, eventually. But might have wished he hadn't.

"When I was left out of the All-Ireland quarter-final, I had a discussion with him about what I was or wasn't doing or what I should or shouldn't be doing.

"I tired to work on that.

"Then, I started the Donegal game - which didn't go particularly well…," he says, trailing off so as to leave that particular calamity undocumented.

"But then the year was over and it probably took until that stage to go looking for the tips and the info.

"So that would be a bit of a regret I have," he concludes.

McCaffrey was the Young Footballer of the Year in 2013. Understandably then, his absence from the Dublin team a season on didn't make a whole pile of sense to most outside the Dublin camp.

"Jim is a straight shooter," McCaffrey says, by way of revealing he was kept fully informed of his shortcomings.

"He's never going to screw anyone over. If you're dropped, he'll tell you why. He won't make any apologies for the decision he makes."

He picked up a knock in December but it wasn't hard to get his head around a new season.

Partly because "we had nothing to be celebrating."

And also, "We were hurting, not just about the loss but also the way the loss was viewed. A lot of it was being put down to us being bad rather than Donegal being good, which they were."

McCaffrey, like his team, healed slowly from their off year.

"The real change for me was, at the start of the year, when Jason Sherlock got involved, he asked me did I have any specific goals," he recalls now.

Removal

"And the only one I had was to start every game for Dublin. Be it an O'Byrne Cup game, the League, whatever…"

He started eight of nine League matches. Every single Championship match and his only removal was in the All-Ireland final after the aforementioned curry.

"I couldn't sleep. Couldn't eat. Couldn't hold down liquids," he recalls of his preamble to the final.

The story has been told already. He spent three hours on a drip and consumed some of Seán Boylan's herbal remedies and having been cleared to play, he last just as long as he could in the final before signalling to the bench that his race was run.

He sprinted for the ceramic comfort of the Dublin dressing-room but "couldn't get sick. I was dry retching in the dressing-room.

"I said I better go out and see the rest of the game. It's an All-ireland final.

"I was sitting on the bench watching it. But for the last five minutes of the match, I was actually getting sick. I was actually on all fours on the bench vomiting. I could hear the cheering and the shouting but I had no idea what was going in. It was a very tense moment."

"Turns out," McCaffrey adds, "winning All-Irelands cures you of food poisoning."

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