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Concerns for Cluxton after sustaining 'blow to the lower back' against Longford

The goalkeeper was replaced by Evan Comerford after 22 minutes.

JIM GAVIN SAYS Stephen Cluxton suffered a “lower back” injury after the collision with James McGivney that saw the Longford forward sent-off during the first-half of their Leinster SFC semi-final.

Stephen Cluxton receives medical attention Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

McGivney had no intention of playing the ball when he clattered into the Dublin goalkeeper as he was airborne, a hit that sent Cluxton flying into the Croke Park turf.

Cluxton bounced up immediately to defend his goal but once the play was stopped he looked dazed and in some distress. After receiving attention from the Dublin medical team he was replaced by Evan Comerford and made his way off the field.

The 36-year-old appeared shaken up by the incident as he hobbled straight into the dressing rooms looked like he may have been concussed.

One Twitter user posted an image of Cluxton still wearing his gear walking into the Mater Hospital A&E department yesterday evening and there are concerns he may have suffered a significant rib injury.

“Being very honest about it, it was hard to see from the angle I had on the 45 on the other half (of the field),” Gavin explained afterwards.

“It was just a mid-air collision, that’s all I saw. These things happen. He just got a blow to the lower back, I think.”

Comerford was introduced as a ‘temporary substitute’ but the move was never made permanent despite the fact that Cluxton didn’t return to the fray. Dublin exploited a loophole in the rules by making six more substitutions – seven in total.

A 2015 amendment to GAA rules stated that concussions are to be dealt with in the same manner as blood injuries, but there is no stipulation in the rule that requires a player to return after a specific time period before the substitution becomes a permanent one.

Stephen Cluxton is fouled by James McGivney Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

It was the first championship game Cluxton hasn’t completed since July 2003 when he was sent-off in a qualifier game against Armagh for kicking an opponent.

Dublin were defeated and the Parnells club man was suspended for the Leinster quarter-final the following year against Paidi O Sé’s Westmeath, which Dublin lost by 0-14 to 0-12.

Naomh Barrog stopper Brian Murphy replaced Cluxton for that game, but the latter played between the posts for the Sky Blues in every championship game for 14 years until Comerford took to the field yesterday.

“We gave Evan the opportunity to see the game out and I thought he did well when he was there, so he took that opportunity well,” said Gavin of the young Ballymun goalie.

David McGivney and Evan Comerford Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Comerford won an All-Ireland U21 title with Dublin last year while establishing himself ahead of former county panellist Sean Currie as the Ballymun Kickhams number one last season.

Comerford’s arrival onto the field gave a tantalising look at life for Dublin after Cluxton, but Gavin was impressed with his performance.

“We can see his progress on the training field. He’s been working really hard. You can see he’s very diligent, applies himself really well and he’s got a great attitude.

“I think you saw there, there was a seamless transition which is a credit to Evan, to his application over the last, not only a number of weeks but a number of months and years.

“He’s very assured. A very good shot-stopper and always was, and his kick-outs have really improved. As you saw there today, he’s very accurate off the tee which is great for any goalkeeper to have.”

Ciaran Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On a positive note for Dublin, Jack McCaffrey made a return to the field after tearing his cruciate in last year’s All-Ireland final, while Cian O’Sullivan also made his first appearance since dislocating his shoulder during the league.

“(Jack) hasn’t played a representative fixture yet but he’s been playing in the background with us for a number of weeks, as Cian has as well,” Gavin explained.

“So, great to see them back on the pitch and they played their part in the second-half, absolutely.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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