Sunday 24 February 2019

Jack will not lose any pace after cruciate return - Cahill

Comeback: Dublin's Jack McCaffrey goes on the attack during yesterday week's Leinster SFC semi-final victory over Laois
Comeback: Dublin's Jack McCaffrey goes on the attack during yesterday week's Leinster SFC semi-final victory over Laois

After the cruciate come the questions.

When will be the 'victim' be back playing?

How much longer after that until peak form is arrived at?

Will the 'victim' have lost any pace?

"You're going out to the training pitch, going out to play matches and trying to put the injury to the back of your mind," recalls Barry Cahill, who ruptured the ACL in his left knee whilst training for Dublin in the build up to their All-Ireland qualifier against Derry in Clones in 2003.

"But then - every day, every session, every match - team-mates, managers, friends, physios are all asking you how the knee is and how it's coming along.

"There is a psychological process you have to go through."

Last Sunday, in a Leinster SFC semi-final notable otherwise only for the injury suffered by Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey answered the first and third of the above questions.

It took him 38 weeks to play for Dublin again and just shy of eight months to play a senior club match.


And as he demonstrated when he took off with possession after Evan Comerford flicked a goal kick to him after just a minute of the second half - no, it seems as though the 2015 Footballer of the Year's scorching pace is fully in tact.

As for when McCaffrey will arrive back to his very best, Cahill says there are still some physical hurdles to overcome first.

"When you go back jogging and then get into stride and then you start sprinting in straight lines, there is a bit of a limp there," he recalls.

"You can see that yourself and you notice that people are watching you.

"It's probably 90 per cent there, but you're just not quite a hundred per cent.

"Initially, you're probably lacking that extra ten per cent speed, but that's just down to your co-ordination building up again between the knee and the muscles and everything else. It comes back after a few weeks or months. Touch wood he doesn't have any more problems around that knee or the muscles around it.

"A lot of players end up having hamstring injuries after they go back playing after a cruciate because the muscles have suffered around the knee," Cahill notes.

"It's about getting that stability back into your whole leg and it all coming together.

"But I don't think he'll lose any pace," he adds.

"Although in fairness, he probably has plenty of it to lose!"

McCaffrey stated in interviews that the All-Ireland Series was his intended comeback date.

Whether that was expedited by an accelerated recovery or whether McCaffrey just underestimated his own healing powers is hard to say.

But given his own on-going medical education and the expertise contained within the Dublin backroom, it's wholly unlikely any chances were being taken with McCaffrey's knee.

"Some players, I think, try and cut corners," says Cahill.

"Because I think for some players, just getting back on to the pitch is the thing.

"But that won't be the case with Jack."

For Cahill, an All-Ireland club semi-final against An Ghaeltacht fell one day shy of exactly six months after he suffered his injury.

He made it back to play and come through the game but reckons another two months went past before he was fully himself.

In between, he rehab-ed the injury twice a day, once at seven o'clock in the morning with further work in the evening after his college lectures were finished.

Where some players are unconcerned about the reasons for particular elements of the comeback process, instead preferring to just do the work as prescribed, Cahill read up on the injury, consulted Trevor Giles - who had suffered similar misfortune a couple of years previous - and even kept a diary.

"I had the luxury to put that time and effort into it," he notes.

"Jack is obviously a hugely intelligent guy. So he would be very focused and rigid in his rehabilitation process.

"He would be very aware or have a very good understanding, not just on what needs to be done, but why it needs to be done," says the 2011 All-Ireland SFC winner.

"There's no doubt he'd have followed that by the book."

So the only lingering question is when McCaffrey will hit peak form.

For Cahill, his pace and talent dictate that a fully fit, full in-form Jack McCaffrey is an automatic starter for Dublin.

And his earlier-than-expected comeback bodes well for that happening in this year's Championship.


"I definitely think he'll be in the starting team, probably during the 'Super Eights,' with a view to him firing on all cylinders and going well for the All-Ireland stage," Cahill notes.

"He's too good a player, too much of a weapon to not have in your starting team particularly against those teams who play with those mass defences.

"He's frighteningly quick," adds the St Brigid's clubman.

"And he causes panic in the opposition when he has the ball and he attracts so much attention when he gets into the opposition half that it frees up space for other guys in there.

"Plus, he has the game intelligence to off-load the ball.

"You very rarely see him run into tackles or run down blind alleys into cul de sacs.

"He has the presence of mind to just offload the ball at the right time to a Con O'Callaghan or a Paddy Andrews on the loop to the get the scores.

"And," Cahill adds, "the fact that he's back playing already, that he has already got some games under his belt in early June, he should be back close to his best by mid July."

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