Monday 21 January 2019

Jack's return date ... against the Dubs

McCaffrey set to feature for UCD as Sigerson holders seek to topple Sky Blue wannabes

Jack McCaffrey of UCD
Jack McCaffrey of UCD

The Dubs in Parnell Park, and Jack McCafffrey back on the pitch ... what better way to ring in the New Year?

Except there's one major difference. The 2015 Footballer of the Year is set to feature in tonight's Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup group clash but he will do so for his college, UCD, instead of his county.

The near-certainty is that this will be a very shortlived bout of opposition, and that McCaffrey's absence from the Dublin senior set-up (stemming from last year's African travels) will end soon.

"That's not a boost to me!" laughed Paul Clarke when Dublin's stand-in boss was reminded about the Clontarf man's likely role tonight.

"He's been back playing for his club. I think he nearly won them promotion on his own. I saw the play-off game and he was just phenomenal. Like, Jack McCaffrey doesn't become a bad footballer overnight."


The explosive half-back played the first half of last Sunday's O'Byrne Cup opener against Wexford in Gorey, which finished in relatively entertaining stalemate, and UCD manager John Divilly has confirmed that he will also feature this evening.

"It will be fairly similar to Wexford, the same panel of 24-25 guys. He will get game time again - they will all get some game time," Divilly told The Herald.

Dublin, too, are sure to stick primarily with the squad that opened with a relatively straight-forward seven-point win over DCU last Sunday. With last year's senior panel still away on their team holiday, Clarke and Jim Brogan have been entrusted with managing the new-look Blues for the duration of the competition - but the former stressed that he'll be staying in "very close contact" with Jim Gavin.

"We had Ray Boyne doing our stats and analysis (against DCU)," Clarke explained. "He will put that together and pass it onto Jim. The game is recorded and probably will be shared with Jim. He'd be well aware of everything. Then I'll have a chat with him at some stage to say how it went."

Unlike most other counties who use January to play wildly experimental sides, Dublin's talent pool runs so deep that Clarke can still pick a team containing a majority of All-Ireland winning underage graduates.

Last Sunday's line-up was populated with lots of minor and U21 champions, prompting DCU manager Niall Moyna to surmise that the "scary" gap between Dublin and the rest of Leinster is still widening.

But Divilly - an All-Ireland winner with Galway who proved his managerial credentials by ending UCD's 20-year Sigerson Cup famine last February - sees this as a challenge to be embraced by everyone else.

"I just think Dublin have a fantastic squad of players," he reflected. "They have played the most positive football in the country. They have deserved all their success.

"Kerry and Mayo are the next two chasing them down, and after that there are seven or eight teams looking to get into the number four spot.


"Dublin have done an awful lot of work at underage and won a lot of underage titles. But there are a lot of other counties who have won underage titles, and it's up to them to push into senior.

"Dublin are in a good place - it won't last forever. It's up to other counties to knock the door down," he concluded.

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