The inter-county career of Jack McCaffrey may be at an end after he has made it known that he will not be part of Dublin’s bid to win a sixth successive All-Ireland senior title this year.
The Sunday Independent understands that McCaffrey’s decision is not related to the current coronavirus pandemic and his work on the frontline, as a medical doctor, but rather a desire to take a break from the inter-county game.
There are strong indications that this decision may see McCaffrey effectively retire from inter-county football and focus on his club Clontarf. McCaffrey, who will be 27 in October, previously took a year out from football in 2016 to travel around Africa, starting off his trip working with GOAL in Ethiopia.
At the time the decision stunned the GAA world as he was the reigning Footballer of the Year and Dublin were aiming to win a third All-Ireland in a row under Jim Gavin.
While Dublin are still well resourced, and managed to win the All-Ireland in McCaffrey’s absence four years ago, he will be a major loss as he is easily one of the top players in the country, possessing lightning pace and a dynamism that will be sorely missed in the Dublin half-back line.
The news is a big blow to Dessie Farrell in his first year in charge, and with the season already badly disrupted by the coronavirus lockdown.
McCaffrey’s father Noel also represented Dublin before his son continued the tradition by breaking into the senior team in Gavin’s first year in charge, 2013.
He won his first All-Ireland senior medal the same year, and scaled those peaks again in 2014 and ’15, before taking a year out. He returned in 2017 but went off in the All-Ireland final after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury. He got back to star in the 2018 All-Ireland final, winning the man of the match award. In the 2019 drawn final against Kerry, he won man of the match again, scoring 1-3 from play.
Apart from five All-Ireland senior medals, he has won three National Leagues, two All-Ireland under-21s, one as captain, and three All-Star awards.
McCaffrey has not been afraid to express his views on the GAA and spoke of his strong opposition to any form of professionalism earlier this year.
"The whole beauty of the GAA is that it’s rooted in Irish history and it’s rooted in the Irish community and even the Irish community abroad is where you often see it praised the most," he said.
"It’s certainly one of the special things that you play with your club, you play with your county, and there is no barrier or difference.
"I think it would have an awful effect on the organisation if it was ever to come in."
In 2016, speaking to this newspaper in Addis Ababa while on a year’s break, he tried to explain his decision to opt out and spoke about his attitude to football in the greater scheme of things.
"I don’t think anyone who knows me anyway would question how important it is to me, and how much I love it, but I would be conscious of when you are in the public eye at inter-county level, to pretty much everybody who doesn’t know me, I am Jack McCaffrey, county footballer, and I never want to tie my identification to one thing in particular."