GAA Football

Jack McCaffrey loss could help level All-Ireland playing field says former Dublin captain Paddy Christie

Wing-back Jack McCaffrey has opted off the Dublin panel for the rest of the year, leaving boss Dessie Farrell with a selection headache. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

THE loss of Jack McCaffrey to the Dublin cause could lead to a levelling of the playing field once the All-Ireland Championship gets under way later this year, says former captain Paddy Christie.

Flying wing-back McCaffrey will not be part of the Dubs' search for a sixth Sam Maguire in-a-row after opting off the panel for the rest of the year.

Even in a squad as deep as Dublin's, losing a player of McCaffrey's class is a huge blow for boss Dessie Farrell as he plans to pick up where former boss Jim Gavin left off last September.

Christie, though, fears a dearth of talent coming through at underage – allied to the loss of McCaffrey – could take its toll on the Dubs and help the chasing pack close the gap when the Championship action gets under way on October 31/November 1.

“You would look at that panel and say, yeah, there are replacements. Somebody replacing him for a day or two for a big match is grand, but for somebody to replace him consistently over a couple of years? Eoin Murchan has all the raw materials to do that, but you don't know,” said the Ballymun Kickham's stalwart, who picked up an Allstar in 2001.

“The fear I have is that the underage supply is not what it was, so if Eoin Murchan was to get injured, there isn't really that high calibre of players. It's not as big as what people think it is; it has slowed down dramatically.

“He's another player who's gone. [Diarmuid] Connolly, it looks like he may be gone at this stage, you're losing these fellas and there's not automatic replacements for them.

“I still think Dublin are justifiable favourites for the All-Ireland but, as regards the long-term, they could've done with having Jack McCaffrey for another three or four years. Another couple of losses with injuries and it's going to level the playing field dramatically.”

McCaffrey has always appeared something of an outlier at the ultra-professional elite level of GAA, his beaming smile during the pre-match parade often at odds with the stern faces in front and behind.

Christie was a more serious personality during his own playing days, but has no issue with the Clontarf ace choosing to put football on the backburner.

“Jack's just a very different fella. He took a break a couple of years ago, but even in the parade you see him smiling up at the crowd, he's just a guy who sees the game in a different way. It's just that – a game.

“There are people who see football as a pastime rather than the be all and end all, and there's nothing wrong with that. I wasn't that type of fella. For as long as I was there and until I stopped, I was totally into it; it consumed me.

“Now, when I look back, I can see there were times I took it way too serious. Like, in the 2001 All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry, I marked Johnny Crowley and he got the two goals that ultimately sunk us.

“I took it so badly, and for months afterwards I was in the horrors. We lost in the middle of August and I was still dragging my heels for months. It was still on my mind at Christmas.

“When I look back now I think ‘you bleedin' eejit' because everybody else had moved on, forgotten about it, except me. Life still has to go on, you can't live your life only being a certain way when things are going well. That's not right.

“Jack McCaffrey plays because he likes playing, and maybe with work and other things going on in his life, he has just decided it's time to move on for now. Life is not all about football, and it's a very mature way of looking at things.

“If that's the way Jack is, then fair play to him. He doesn't owe anyone anything.”

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