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Monday 29 May 2017

Jack: I'm back for good now

Jack McCaffrey pictured at AIB’s ‘Club Fuels County’ launch of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship. Pic: Sportsfile
Jack McCaffrey pictured at AIB’s ‘Club Fuels County’ launch of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship. Pic: Sportsfile
Jack McCaffrey scores Dublin’s second goal during their Allianz FL Division 1 clash with Monaghan at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones in early April

Jack McCaffrey says he made peace with the possibility of never playing for Dublin again prior to leaving Jim Gavin's squad last year.

The 2015 Footballer of the Year also clarified that he has no plans to travel again in the immediate future, nor will he be required to as part of his medical studies, insisting: "I'm around long term".

McCaffrey spent 11 weeks of last summer touring parts of Africa.

Firstly, to Ethiopia in July to volunteer with GOAL, McCaffrey then underwent a work placement in a Zambian hospital.

Later, the Clontarf clubman spent time in Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya as part of an extended holiday.

By consequence, he missed Dublin's back-to-back All-Ireland success after leaving the squad in March, a decision about which he maintains he has no regrets.

He returned to Ireland just days before Dublin's All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry, though McCaffrey says he harboured no ambitions at the time about a possible late-season recall to Jim Gavin's squad.

Such a sabbatical was naturally considered highly unusual for a player of McCaffrey's stature, then the reigning Footballer of the Year in a team heavily-tipped to become just the second to win consecutive All-Ireland titles for 26 years.

Hardest

Reflecting now, McCaffrey admits "my head wasn't in the football," in the early part of the season in which came on as a substitute in both of Dublin's opening round League matches against Kerry and Mayo.

"I went off to Thailand with a few of my friends around Christmas time of 2015 and came back at the start of 2016 and thought that it would just take me a while to get back into it," he explained.

"But it quickly became apparent that I wasn't enjoying it as much as I'm used to. My head wasn't in the football. And the one thing about inter-county football is you don't half-do it. You'll be found out if you do that."

The hardest part of walking away, McCaffrey explained, was accepting the potential that the chance might not arise again.

That his inter-county career might be over at just 22 years of age.

"I had to be okay with the possibility that I'd never play for Dublin again," the Clontarf man admitted.

"That was probably the thing that I discussed with my Dad a bit.

"(He said) just so you're aware, hopefully it won't happen, and luckily it hasn't happened, but it was a possibility and I ended up being okay with it.

"That was the tough part about making the decision. The Dublin team is so competitive and you were sending ... it was a departure for a year of my own volition.

"I could have come back and gotten injured, I could have come back in awful shape. Three wing-backs could have just (impressed), any multitude of things.

"Just, I suppose, like, you could be hit by a car now and never play for Dublin again. There's always (the possibility).

"I look back at the year before, I was having the time of the life and it led to this."

Thus McCaffrey missed out on a third All-Ireland medal to go along with his All Star and Footballer of the Year awards.

Yet despite having experienced so much success so young, McCaffrey maintains it didn't make his decision any easier.

"That definitely wasn't in my thinking," he insisted.

"You've won a lot - that's not my principal motivation.

"I play football because I really enjoy it and I've made some of my best friends through it and I love being around them and having the craic."

When the call came from Jim Gavin last December to return to the Dublin squad, McCaffrey says there was no hesitation on his part.

Nor did he experience any resentment from management or team-mates about his self-imposed exile.

"I can understand how it might strike some people as strange," he admitted.

"Playing for Dublin was a childhood dream of mine, and I love every minute of it.

"But for some reason the spark was gone that year and obviously my close friends who know me well, when I chatted to them and explained it to them (they understood).

"You can't really do that to everybody so you know, I have no issue with how anyone reacted. I didn't get any kind of negative feedback.

"It was all kind of supportive."

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