Dessie Farrell: Stephen Cluxton has not come back to sit on the Dublin bench

Dublin substitute Stephen Cluxton before the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Dublin and Louth at Croke Park

Conor McKeon

Dessie Farrell acknowledged Stephen Cluxton hasn’t returned to the Dublin squad just to sit on the bench, after an unexpected turn of events in Croke Park.

Cluxton, 41, emerged from the Dublin dressing-room in Croke Park without so much as a rumour last week around the capital about a possible comeback.

He played the role of unused substitute in Dublin’s seven-point victory over Louth but Farrell hinted that he was unlikely to be satisfied with such a brief for the rest of the season.

Put to Farrell afterwards that Cluxton, who captained Dublin to seven All-Irelands, hadn’t simply come back to be reserve goalkeeper, he replied: “I would have thought not, no. Knowing the man.”

“Stephen is training a couple of weeks now,” Farrell explained. “He’s fit and healthy and keen and eager. We’ve had a number of goalkeeping injury woes,” he added, referencing the ongoing absence of Evan Comerford.

“So there was a vacancy there and Stephen has always said if he could ever help us out in any way, he’d be willing to do it. We’re delighted to have him in the mix.

“Obviously Stephen’s leadership and experience and the personality he is, those type of individuals are invaluable in any setup. Over the past couple of seasons, we’ve had a few players move on and retire.”

Cluxton hasn’t played for Dublin since the 2020 All-Ireland final, the last game of the first season of Farrell’s tenure.

His status was cloaked in mystery for much of 2021, but Farrell stressed that he has remained close to the squad on a personal level.

“He’s never been too far away and we’ve been delighted to have him back in the mix,” he stated.

“He’s Dublin through and through. He’s always said he’s willing to help out if the need arose and the need has arose. We’re delighted to have him in the mix.”

Paul Mannion also made his comeback against Louth, kicking a point in Dublin’s seven-point win, as did Paddy Small, who made his first appearance of 2023.

Jack McCaffrey sat the game out for the third round running but Farrell suggested he may be back in full training next week ahead of Dublin’s Division 2 final with Derry on Sunday.