Jumping Jack flash back to his best for Dubs
Recovery of Clontarf flyer McCaffrey driving Dublin's bid for four All-Ireland titles in a row
At one point in his recovery from a knee injury, Jack McCaffrey found himself wondering if it would ever come right.
After collapsing early in last year's All-Ireland final, the Clontarf flyer trudged down the long and lonely road towards recovery. He has had to take baby steps and be patient. However by the time the spring rolled around, he looked set to take a major leap forward.
McCaffrey was slated to play a half in a league game for Clontarf, his first taste of action since the previous September. For the first 30 minutes, he served as an umpire before togging off to play the second. He was, in his own words, "brutal".
To that point the rehab had been straightforward. Every few days and weeks there was a tangible progression from straightening the leg to running to load-bearing exercises. By the week he was passing milestones.
But playing in a game and contact brought an unknown element.
"The hardest for me was when I got back playing," McCaffrey said, at the launch of the 23rd Asian Gaelic Games sponsored by Irish international fintech company Fexco which takes place in Bangkok once again this year on November 17-18.
"It's so clear-cut, the whole transition. So today you'll squat and the next day you'll deadlift or whatever. You just tick the boxes. Then I went to play against Fingallians for Clontarf and I was only playing a half. I came on at half-time and I was just brutal. I was really upset.
"I was so excited and it's always in the back of your head, thinking that you'll come back and score 3-6 or something and it'd just be great and it did not happen like that at all.
"Looking back on it, if you're being realistic about things it was always going to take a while to get back but at that time, I still had a bit of work to do on my fitness but I also wanted to be playing and getting back in the frame for team selection.
"So there's a slight danger that you can kind of fall between two stools there and I found that really challenging.
"But we have some great guys involved with the management team who kind of had a chat with me and we got through it all right."
McCaffrey returned to action as a half-time sub against Longford in the Leinster SFC semi-final and looks to have improved with each outing.
On Saturday, he collected the man of the match award and moved into joint third in the market (8/1) to collect his second Footballer of the Year award with his searing pace underpinning another fine performance.
If anything, McCaffrey looks faster than he did before his injury, though he did worry if he'd return with his same electric pace.
"No, it's (losing his pace) definitely something that crossed my mind. Everything crosses your mind over the time period coming back but it was definitely a possibility. But the strength and conditioning programme and the rehab and stuff, there was always a bit of speed work in there too. Luckily, it hasn't suffered too much.
"My kind of raw speed probably isn't that... my strength would be running with the ball as opposed to pure, I mean Paul Mannion would be quicker than I would be in terms of pure going. I don't know, I've said that a couple of times in this, but I feel as quick as I was.
"It was something I was worried about and it's only when you get out here and you get a ball in your hand and you just go that you finally feel it's there again and you're back. I think I'm similar enough."
There were 267 days between his injury against Mayo and his return to action. His team-mate Bernard Brogan returned from a similar injury in just over five months.
"It's been incredible, hasn't it? He's been amazing. Was I running? I don't even know, I couldn't tell you. I wasn't at the training session where it happened, but I remember Bernard rang me and he had to make the call about whether he wanted the operation or whether he was going to try conservatively or whatever it was.
"I was kind of thinking there's no way this will be pulled off, but the work he has put in has been phenomenal. He's been such a good man to have around as well, even while he was not on the field and doing his own stuff, he's just so well respected by everyone.
"He's been a real leader for us in a very different way this year and it's great now to have him back training away as well, so it's been pretty phenomenal."
And now attention turns to Tyrone.
"You tweak your game for any opposition really. You have to pay them the respect they're due and look at how you're going to deal with their strengths.
"We'll do a good bit of looking at Tyrone over the next two weeks and maybe the week of the game start turning the focus back to ourselves. We'll certainly leave no stone unturned."
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