Wednesday 13 November 2019

Footballer of the Year Stephen Cluxton will wait until January to decide on his future

 

Dublin's Stephen Cluxton. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dublin's Stephen Cluxton. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Stephen Cluxton has crowned Dublin's record-breaking year by becoming the oldest All-Star footballer and Player of the Year award winner - but he was giving nothing away on his future intentions.

He plans to wait until January before deciding if he will continue for a 20th season. The 37-year-old goalkeeper picked up his sixth PwC All-Star award at the presentation banquet in Dublin's Convention Centre last night, before being named as Footballer of the Year for the first time.

He beat fellow Dubs Con O'Callaghan and Jack McCaffrey for the honour. The hurling award went to Tipperary captain Seamus Callanan who held off the challenge of TJ Reid and Patrick Horgan.

Cluxton said he was "delighted and shocked" to have won the Footballer of the Year award in a season when Dublin made history by winning the five-in-a-row.

He becomes the oldest Footballer of the Year since Martin Furlong won the award at the age of 36 in 1982. It was also the last time the honour went to a goalkeeper.

It was fourth time lucky for Callanan, who had been nominated for Hurler of the Year on three previous occasions.

"To win an award like this - there's no point saying anything else - it's special," said Callanan, who scored a goal in all eight of Tipperary's Championship games this year.

He will be at the heart of Tipperary's bid to win the All-Ireland double for the first time since the 1960's next season, but Cluxton has yet to make up his mind about his own future with Dublin.

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"It's a tough question (whether to continue or not). There are still two months to go before I'll maybe ask myself that question. It will probably be in January.

"I obviously have to talk to Jim (Gavin) and see what part he wants me to play next year. He might not want me around and that would be completely fine with me. If he feels the other two goalkeepers are ready, then I'm absolutely ready to step away.

"If he thinks I have something more to offer, then I would probably need to have a good think about it because it's not easy just to continue going."

Cluxton revealed that he had doubts about returning this season, having had a difficult time after picking up an injury against Longford last season.

"I broke three bones in my back, had a punctured lung and I had cartilage damage in my shoulder. I still have dodgy ankles from a long time ago.

"So it was a struggle to try and get back up to the level I wanted (after the injury).

"It curtailed all the training and it led to doubts in my mind as to my ability, at the standard that I want to be at, and whether or not it will cost the team in the end.

"Thankfully the guys got us over the line last year. Then I had to spend five months rehabbing up to February of this year. I wasn't really sure as to whether or not I'd have the grá and the hunger for it.

"Evan (Comerford) was playing so well in the League. I felt maybe it was his turn. But, in fairness, the guys coaxed me back to do another year and I'm delighted that I did it," Cluxton added.

Credited with making a huge impact on the evolution of football through his kickout strategies, Cluxton said that it's always about trying to get the most from them.

"You're looking at what the opposition might try and you're trying to get the guys to work on something that might never happen. But if it did then you have a Eureka moment in a game, saying 'I've been here before in training and the guys know what to do'.

"Jim (Gavin) is probably sick of me saying 'we need more kickout training in collective training'. But, in fairness, he gives me the time with the guys and when it works on the pitch you're kind of saying to yourself, 'great, that's exactly what you want'. There are a lot of moving parts."

Cluxton described Gavin as “absolutely inspirational” in everything he brought to the Dublin camp since taking over at the end of 2012.

“Nobody has worked harder than he has. He just spends hours poring over it. I don’t know where he gets the time, what with his job and family. He has been a huge leader for me and it has probably rubbed off a small bit on what I do. Definitely, he has been phenomenal.”

The last decade has been the most successful in Dublin’s history, but Cluxton has known disappointing days too and says it has made the recent successes all the more special.

“When I look back to 2001 and up to 2010, the ups and downs we had throughout those years, they were very turbulent. From 2010 on, we found our feet and started working harder.  I think that time frame has stood to me. You learn something new from everybody,” he added.

Cluxton is one of seven Dublin players on this year’s All-Star team, which also includes four from Kerry, two from Tyrone and one each from Mayo and Donegal.

Ronan McNamee, Cathal McShane (both Tyrone), Tom O’Sullivan, Sean O’Shea (both Kerry) and Patrick Durcan (Mayo) are all first-time winners.

Callanan, meanwhile, is one of seven Tipperary men on the hurling team, which also includes three from Kilkenny, two from Limerick and Wexford and one from Cork.

He said that winning the All-Ireland was extra special for Tipperary in a season when many had written them off.

“During the League you’d hear things like: ‘they’re an ageing team, the legs are gone’. Then you look around tonight, Brendan (Maher), Pádraic (Maher) and Noel (McGrath) of the older age group picking up All-Stars.

“It shows that once you are preparing right and once you’re doing the extra bits to keep your body in shape and ready to perform, it doesn’t really matter what age you are.”

Irish Independent

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