'I would have been devastated if he finished up' - McCaffrey confident Cluxton will return in 2020

The All-Ireland winning captain looks set to go for his 20th season with Dublin.

Stephen Cluxton lifting the Sam Maguire after the 2019 All-Ireland final.
Stephen Cluxton lifting the Sam Maguire after the 2019 All-Ireland final.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

DUBLIN STAR JACK McCaffrey says he’s confident that All-Ireland winning captain Stephen Cluxton will be back for his 20th season of inter-county football.

Cluxton, who made his debut in 2001, skippered the Dubs to an unprecedented five-in-a-row last September before going on to be crowned Footballer of the Year.

The Dublin goalkeeper has surpassed several individual records on the way to collecting that seventh Celtic Cross, but has hinted that he may be considering his inter-county future.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport at the All-Star awards, the 38-year-old said that he plans to “sit down with the physios and the doctors and see if I can get through another year”.

Dublin are on their team holiday at the moment, while McCaffrey is at home preparing for an exam as well as getting ready to start a new job in Kilkenny as part of his work in paediatrics. 

With the start of their 2020 campaign drawing near, McCaffrey is backing Cluxton to return to the fold for another season.

“That’s the impression I have at the moment,” McCaffrey responded when asked if Cluxton is back in the Dublin squad for 2020.

“The lads are away and I haven’t started back training yet so I obviously don’t know but I think so, yeah.

He is who everyone knows he is in terms of his football and his influence he has on us as a team, but more importantly, he’s a really good friend so I would have been devastated if he finished up. It’ll be great to have him around.” 

Cluxton suffered extensive injuries in 2018, which he spoke about to the media at the 2019 All-Star awards.

The Parnell’s man sustained three broken bones in his back, a punctured lung, and cartilage damage in his shoulder following an aerial collision with Longford forward James McGivney in the Leinster SFC semi-final.

jack-mccaffrey Denis Mahony Toyota Brand Ambassador and Dublin Footballer Jack McCaffrey pictured with his Toyota C-HR. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cluxton had to face into a lengthy recovery after that incident before returning to the Dublin team in time for their Super 8s campaign.

“When you’re playing sport, relatively innocuous challenges can have pretty devastating consequences and he obviously picked up a fairly nasty knock,” McCaffrey recalls before going on to praise his Dublin team-mate for his quiet approach to regaining his fitness.

“Fair play to him, he’s always kept himself in incredible condition and he had himself in a position where, if something like that happened, he’d be back in no time and that’s what happened.

It was no surprise to any of us that he kept his head down, kept plugging away and got himself back for the good of the team, as soon as was humanly possible.

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“It certainly wasn’t a small injury.”

Cluxton says the long stint of rehab prompted him to question his ability at inter-county level. He admitted that he wasn’t sure if he should continue playing with Dublin in 2019, but his team-mates rallied around to convince him to stay.

McCaffrey isn’t surprised to learn that the Dublin shot-stopper sometimes doubts himself, and is always striving to reach higher standards.

“He would certainly push himself to a standard that is higher than anyone else and that’s just one of the remarkable things about him.

It’s probably good for us as a team that he’s not happy with his performances and keeps driving himself on.

“I’m pretty happy with how he’s doing.” 

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