'41? I don't think Stephen Cluxton’s age matters and I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting for Dublin'

Stephen Cluxton is in the frame to start in this weekend's Division Two league final. Image: Sportsfile.

Michael Verney

Former Armagh and Crossmaglen Rangers goalkeeper Paul Hearty sees no reason why Stephen Cluxton cannot shine again between the posts for Dublin despite his advancing years.

Cluxton, an eight-time All-Ireland SFC winner, made a shock return for Dessie Farrell's Dubs when part of their match-day panel for their Division 2 Football League tie against Louth last Sunday before playing a challenge game against Meath the next day.

That was Cluxton's first appearance for the Dubs in 829 days having seemingly retired during the 2021 season but he is now back in the fold and Hearty reckons that he could be starting when the Leinster SFC commences next month.

"Us keepers don't have a yard (of pace) to lose, you lose a yard in a kick-out maybe, but that's all you'd be worried about. But Stephen looks after himself very well. 41? I don't think it matters," Hearty said.

"I was still playing club at 40 and to play county, you have to be in the shape that Stephen is. He's back in now testing the water and would you be surprised to see him starting the first round of Leinster? I wouldn't."

Hearty also heralded the likely the likely role which Pat Gilroy - who led the Dubs to All-Ireland SFC glory in 2011 - had in enticing the 2019 Footballer of the Year back into the squad.

"Who's dangling the carrot in front of him? What changed to bring him back? That's what I'd love to know. Dessie has been there and he didn't want to come back," the six-time All-Ireland club SFC winner said.

"I think Gilroy, that's the secret there. Pat has Stephen's button pressed. He wasn't the captain of seven All-Ireland-winning teams for no reason. He's in there and he has the respect of all of the players.

"You have to take your hats off to the Dubs getting all these big players back, (Paul) Mannion, (Jack) McCaffrey and Cluxton. They'll not be too far away again if they can get the swagger back around Croke Park again, they'll be hard beaten."