Johnny McCaffrey: 'There's a big carrot there for the team that wins'
McCaffrey inclined to look on the brighter side of an up-and-down League campaign
TO call the League a mixed bag for Dublin is to understate in the extreme.
More like a black sack of Pick'n'Mix.
They beat Tipp and Kilkenny but collapsed in Ennis.
Hammered by Cork but salvaged a quarter-final spot with a mature performance and marker-layer against Galway.
Went through Limerick for a short-cut, banishing all those Croke Park myths but saved the wildest oscillation of all for the League semi-final.
Therein, they played some of the best hurling of any Dublin team in verifiable memory against Cork in Nowlan Park but somehow, contrived to lose.
"Obviously very disappointed after that defeat," says Johnny McCaffrey.
"To be ten points up and not win the game is very disappointing.
"But when you look back over it after a couple of days, you try and pick the positives out of it.
"To hurl as well as we did in the first 50 minutes or so was pleasing.
"It was nearly like a Championship game because of the heat. Big crowd, hard ground. It was a good simulator for later on in the Championship.
"Obviously losing the game was negative but a lot of the stuff in the game was negative."
Why then, did Dublin lose?
Surely the Kilkenny win, where the Cats seemed somehow galvanised by their reduced numbers (13) - and Richie Hogan - and probably, only ran out of time or the Clare defeat, where Davy Fitzgerald's team made similarly light of their numerical arrears (14) to claw back a six-point deficit formed part of an education that these sort of games against these class of teams don't tend to be settled until everyone is safely in the showers.
"It's hard to know. If you give Cork that bit of momentum, they will kick on and get a couple of scores," McCaffrey reasoned.
"Their forwards are that strong that if you give them any bit of space…
"Maybe a few of our lads tired towards the end. In the heat…that was the first time we've in it all year.
"Now, in saying that, we got a couple of chances ourselves at the end. Had we taken them, it would have been a different story.
"But that's a positive too, that we were creating chances at the end.
"If you weren't creating them, it would be a different story.
"But bar the Cork game in Croke Park, every other game was competitive. We were quite consistent in every other game.
"There was a lot of positives to take out of it."
Mixed bag for McCaffrey too.
For all the subtle and not-so-subtle personnel and positional experiments conducted by Ger Cunningaham, the one area in a seemingly constant state of flux was McCaffrey's stomping ground of midfield.
By the League's conclusion, he had formed a very balanced-looking partnership with Niall McMorrow, but not until after McCaffrey - who was also relieved of the captaincy after four years in the role - had spent four League matches starting on the bench.
"It was a position I wasn't used to," he acknowledges now.
"I was used to always playing if I was fit. And from a personal point of view that when I did get my chance, I took it and played a few games after that.
"It just gives you good confidence that you know when there's a challenge put up to you, that you can face that challenge and you can drive on and hopefully keep going."
So for all the ups and downs, summer is laid out as straight-forward or as convoluted for Dublin as they make it against Galway on May 31st.
"There's a big carrot there for the team that wins. Your season is mapped out if you win. You know who you're going to be playing," McCaffrey points out.
"If you lose, it's a different route altogether and it's one you want to try and avoid. There is a big carrot there for whoever does win and that's what we want to do."