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Dublin: 19 °C Friday 14 August, 2020
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'You'll miss his personality, his energy and his leadership, but you have to respect Jack's decision'

Dublin star Ciarán Kilkenny on Jack McCaffrey’s exit, fears on the GAA season shutting down and his excitement to be back.

Ciarán Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey after the 2018 Leinster semi-final.
Ciarán Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey after the 2018 Leinster semi-final.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

DUBLIN STAR CIARÁN Kilkenny says that Jack McCaffrey will be sorely missed this season, though his decision to step away from the five-in-a-row All-Ireland winning set-up is one that should be respected.

There was major shock in late June when it was reported that 2015 Foorballer of the Year and Clontarf flyer McCaffrey had stepped away from Dessie Farrell’s panel, and may not return.

Star defender McCaffrey, who works as a doctor, is now expected to focus on his club football — and Kilkenny wishes him well with his decision.

Having both climbed the ranks together, the 27-year-old Castleknock playmaker agrees that it will be sad not to have McCaffrey alongside him in the Sky Blue jersey later this year.

That said, it is an opportunity for someone else to break through and should the four-time All-Star make a U-turn on his choice, he would be welcomed back with open arms.

“Yeah, very sad,” Kilkenny said this afternoon. “But you have to respect Jack’s decision.

“You’ll miss his personality, his energy, his charisma, his leadership around the group, but it’s his decision and you have to respect his decision.

“And it is just another opportunity for someone else to put their hand up for a position within the team.

I wish him the best of luck, and Dessie has an open-door policy, so if he was to change his mind, he is always welcomed back.”

After returning to club action over the past few weeks, Kilkenny is hopeful that the GAA season will proceed as planned following the Covid-19-enforced lay-off.

Fears surrounding the season possibly shutting down have arisen over the past few days and weeks due to the rising number of coronavirus cases across the country, with several clubs forced to cease all activities as precautionary measures.

But Kilkenny, who turned 27 last week, remains hopeful on the situation.

“You just have to be optimistic and and you have to adhere to and respect the guidelines,” he noted. “Keep training away with your club, look forward to your games and just be optimistic.

“You just have to respect and adhere to the guidelines and that’s all you can do: just be optimistic and hopeful because you don’t know what’s coming around the corner as we’ve seen with this over the last couple months. It’s completely out of your hands.”

Screenshot 2020-07-20 at 15.54.25 Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps ambassador Ciarán Kilkenny. Source: SPORTSFILE.

“We just have to be so thankful,” he later added. “A lot of other sports aren’t back yet so to be back playing with our clubs, we just have to be very appreciative.”

With competitive matches resuming across the length and breadth of the country over the weekend, crowd numbers were a major talking point.

On Friday, GAA President John Horan made a direct appeal to the Taoiseach to allow more supporters to attend matches. At present, government restrictions on gatherings allow 200 people outdoors but Horan believes the size of GAA stadia means larger numbers socially distancing is possible.

While Kilkenny said he has “no real thoughts on that,” he is just pleased that Gaelic games is back in full flow.

“I suppose that’s up to the powers within. We’re just so lucky to be back training and to be back playing football. I know a lot of people are streaming games online, so it’s great that people are able to watch games online as well.

“It’s brilliant how creative people have been throughout all this. It’s great that some games are being streamed.

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“It’s just such a positive thing to be back out on the pitch playing games.”

Having played two challenge matches with his club, a showdown with St Oliver Plunketts lies ahead next weekend while Raheny and Kilmacud Crokes are also in Castleknock’s championship group.

Kilkenny is delighted to be fully immersed in the Northside outfit’s set-up this summer, as he usually misses out on periods due to his inter-county commitments.

“When you haven’t played a game so long, you’re just so excited,” he nodded. “To be playing in the summer now and to have lots of games, we’re very fortunate.

“It’s a great opportunity. Everyone’s starting from a clean slate. The great thing about Dessie [Farrell] and the management is they have an open-door policy.

“If you’re performing well with the club, you’ll get the opportunity to come in with the Dublin team and put your hand up for a place as well — which will create a competitive environment. It’s great to have that.”

ciaran-kilkenny Kilkenny on the ball for his club Castleknock. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While he’s also “really excited” about the traditional element of knockout football through the inter-county championship, Kilkenny believes he and his side will have benefitted from the break through the challenging time of lockdown.

Amidst the uncertainty, he used the time to rest and rejuvenate, taking three or four weeks off training to enjoy cycling, playing golf and other hobbies away from football.

While the primary school teacher — who is “optimistic and hopeful” about getting back to school and teaching fourth class in St Benedict’s, Ongar, next year — spent plenty of time online for his job, he dedicated a huge amount of effort encouraging children across Ireland with Gaelic football and hurling skills videos on Twitter a daily basis.

“It was rewarding, fulfilling and inspiring to see all the engagement,” he reflects, “I’ll look back on that nine weeks with a smile. It was really special, and uplifting.

In years to come, I might see these names in Croke Park or playing for their club or county at the highest level and it would be really nice and special to be able to say that they engaged with my skill stuff throughout lockdown.”

“I feel refreshed now and I’m looking forward to all the games that are to come,” Kilkenny concluded on his own personal circumstances, looking forward with optimism.

“Mentally and physically, I feel in a great place. It was a great opportunity for a lot of us guys who’ve been fortunate to play the business-end of the season, that we have the time now to rest and recover.

“It instills that grá and it just gives you time to reset yourself and go at things again.”

***

Dublin footballer Ciarán Kilkenny was on hand as Kellogg Celebrated its 1 Millionth Child at the beginning of the 2020 Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps today.

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Emma Duffy

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