Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE Former Dublin footballer Cian O'Sullivan.

'Find me a manager that's going to say no to a Stephen Cluxton'

Eight-time All-Ireland winner Cian O’Sullivan says the experienced players who have returned to Dublin have a huge role to play.

FORMER DUBLIN FOOTBALLER Cian O’Sullivan says the cohort of experienced players who were recalled to Dessie Farrell’s squad this year still have an “invaluable role” to play.

Multi-All-Ireland winners Stephen Cluxton, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey all rejoined the panel in 2023 after previously stepping away from inter-county football. The return of Mannion and McCaffrey was announced by Farrell at the outset of the season while Cluxton’s appearance in Croke Park for their Division 2 tie against Louth in March was a surprise development.

Cluxton’s case is a particularly intriguing one as it was widely believed that he had quietly retired from Dublin having not been involved with the team since their 2020 All-Ireland victory. There was also the added commentary around the need to turn to Cluxton when Na Fianna’s David O’Hanlon had been performing well as the Dublin goalkeeper.

“If those resources are available to you, find me a manager in the history of the GAA that’s going to say no to a Stephen Cluxton or a Jack McCaffrey or Paul Mannion coming back into the squad,” O’Sullivan says when asked about the public response to the trio returning who have all featured for Dublin leading up to their All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan this weekend.

“These players, whether they kick a ball, are still invaluable to have around the dressing room. The leadership that has been instilled in them over the course of the last 10 years between the three of those guys has been immeasurable. To have them involved in the team in any capacity is a luxury. I can’t imagine Dessie had to think too much at all about bringing them back in.”

Commenting more specifically on Cluxton, O’Sullivan added:

“David [O'Hanlon] has been doing a great job and you’re relying on a guy in his 40s to steer the ship for the Dubs. I guess the proof will be in the pudding on that if Dublin go on to have a successful year. A stroke of genius is going to be the narrative around it. If it doesn’t, it’s something that’s going to have a spotlight shone on it.

 ”That’s all crystal gazing and if we’re looking at the here and now, and you have the opportunity to have Stephen Cluxton go with you, you’re never going to say no to that.”

O’Sullivan called time on his football career in 2021 after winning eight All-Ireland titles with Dublin. The Kilmacud Crokes defender cited injuries in his parting statement at the time, as he was also forced to step away from the club game. He did attempt to make a return for his local side in recent years, but that merely caused a flare up of pre-existing problems.

“I’ve tried to go back playing a bit of club football at a lower level and I just can’t. For me to go back playing sport would require me to probably go full-time with strength and conditioning, which I just can’t at the moment.”

O’Sullivan is now resigned to his fate as a supporter, but feels satisfied knowing that he made every possible effort to play again.

“I tried to go back playing with our second team this year and fairly quickly realised that my body’s just not up to it. My calves, hamstrings and hips are a bit rashered so unfortunately that’s just not an option.

“I played a game and came on for 10 minutes, and my calf went. I tried to play with the third team too and after one or two sessions, calf again.”

Cian O’Sullivan was speaking ahead of the AIB GAA Senior Football Championship semi-finals

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