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'I reached out to him for pints. He's still there but I don't know' - Cluxton's Dublin future

Brian Fenton says he doesn’t know whether the veteran goalkeeper will return to the Dublin team.

Updated Nov 18th 2021, 3:18 PM

DUBLIN STAR MIDFIELDER Brian Fenton says there is still no certainty around the inter-county future of veteran goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

avonmore-pro-oats-gaagpa-launch Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

The eight-time All-Ireland winner was a shock absentee in the Dublin camp for the 2021 season after he made the decision to step away during the summer. Dublin manager Dessie Farrell said at the time that Cluxton wanted to focus on playing for club Parnell’s while also insisting that he had not retired.

Cluxton did not return to the setup as Dublin’s incredible 45-game unbeaten run in the championship came to a crashing halt against rivals Mayo.

That dramatic All-Ireland semi-final defeat was Fenton’s first championship loss with Dublin while it was also the county’s first time not to progress to the decider since 2014.

As attention turns to the 2022 campaign, questions around whether or not Cluxton will resume his inter-county career will circulate once more. But for now, Fenton is still unsure about his teammate’s plans for the future.

“I don’t know, wouldn’t it be great to have him back but the fella is almost 40 now. I’m slagging him saying he’ll be playing Masters next year.

“I reached out to him for pints and stuff and he’s still there, still alive and still a friend but I don’t know is the truth.

“We chat all the time, well no more so than any mates. I’m sure I’ll see him at a Damien Dempsey gig over Christmas, please God if they go ahead.

“But to be fair looking back, would you fault Evan Comerford? I don’t know if you would and he is the most professional athlete you’ll come across. As good as the keepers were in the All-Ireland series, I’d say Evan Comerford will have numerous All-Stars going forward. He certainly helps me to field when he’s kicking it out.”

When asked if he thought Cluxton’s absence would be a distraction for his side this year, Fenton replied:

“At the time, when we were aware that he wasn’t coming back, I thought it would be a distraction and this big thing. And that was there in the media for sure but inside the group, I don’t think it was.

“We’re all mature enough and long enough on the road to know that players come in and out. Dermo has come in and out, Jack [McCaffrey], Paul Mannion. They’ve come in and out in many ways and as the year went on, it certainly wasn’t a distraction for us, as much as I certainly thought it would be at the start.”

While Fenton says that he hasn’t “fully processed” the reality of not finishing a season as All-Ireland champions, he also notes that losing his first championship game with Dublin enables him to move on from that narrative about his unbeaten streak.

His sole focus now is helping out with the Dublin reboot.

“In many ways it wasn’t this big shock for me, to be honest, or this big momentous event,” he begins when asked to recall his initial reaction to the full-time whistle after their loss to Mayo.

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“I’m well used to losing in many ways in different sports growing up. It was just, I suppose, that whole narrative around me and this Dublin team at the end of that run of games.

“That was new, certainly, and I suppose the immediate aftermath in that dressing-room was certainly new as well, that was a new experience. It was no different, it’s disappointing obviously when you’re a sportsperson and you’re a competitor.

“Disappointing, but, I think, again, in many ways, the monkey is off your back or the pressure balloon is burst, you know that sort of way?

“It’s not a relief, I don’t want to say it’s a relief, but that’s it done now and I think for me and for the team, certainly, it’s just a complete reset button and we’ll go at it again. Right, who’s in the group, who’s the 30 lads trying to take it on next year?

“Thankfully that sort of narrative around me never having lost a championship game will be gone now and I won’t be asked about it. It’s just sort of, here we go again, trying to get to the top again.”

Dublin footballer Brian Fenton has teamed up with Avonmore Protein Milk to launch the new Avonmore Pro-Oats product. Fenton was representing the GPA, of whom along with the GAA, Avonmore Protein Milk are a long-standing supporter.

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