Fear of failure drives McCaffrey forward
By John Harrington
When Colman Kennedy won the 2011 All-Ireland Minor Football Final for Tipperary against Dublin with a late, great goal, it wasn’t just a red-letter moment for football in the Premier County.
There’s also an argument to be made that the heartbreak of that defeat has driven a generation of Dublin footballers to go on and become key players for possibly the greatest team of all time.
Ciaran Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion, John Small, Cormac Costello, Niall Scully, and Eric Lowndes all played for Dublin in that 2011 All-Ireland Minor Final.
Between them, they’ve since gone on to accumulate 27 All-Ireland SFC medals.
Ciaran Kilkenny said in a recent interview he can still vividly remember Jack McCaffrey saying to him in the dressing-room after the 2011 All-Ireland Minor Final that the pain of the defeat would drive them on to future glory.
It has proven to be a remarkably prescient statement, even if the man himself can’t quite remember making it.
“It sounds like something I may have said...Ciaran obviously remembers it, so I’ll take his word for it,” said McCaffrey today at the launch of the PwC All-Stars App.
“That was a tough day, minor is a very special age grade. You know a lot of the lads having played up through the age grades alongside each other. You pour a lot into it and we were bitterly disappointed that day.
“There’s an argument to be made that it was a positive thing for Dublin in the long run because there’s a lot of us who still use that as a drive, and who are very well aware that if you take your eye off the ball a little bit, you’ll be found out a little bit and you’ll pay a very dear price for it.”
Off the field, you couldn’t meet a more happy go lucky person that McCaffrey, but he’s a very different animal once he crosses the white line.
And like all competitive people, it’s the fear and painful memory of losing that drives him to give his all in the pursuit of victory.
“I think most sports people are bad losers and if you’re not pissed off a little bit after losing a game then what were you doing out there?” said McCaffrey.
“Everyone likes to deal with it in their own ways, I like to have a bit of me-time and then chat through it with a couple of people. I wouldn’t be a great person to be around after a big loss.”
The duality of McCaffrey’s approach to football is that he takes the pursuit of excellence very seriously without ever losing the pure love of playing the sport for sport’s sake.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into getting onto the Dublin team, onto the starting XV and then performing,” he said.
“I’d never want to give the impression that anyone just turns up and just turns it on, because that doesn’t happen.
“There were very few fun moments coming back from the cruciate injury. It was a slog. But what I always refer to is when you’re out playing football with your friends, it’s the definition of fun. It’s literally what you would have done as a kid, hanging out.
“You go out and just kick a ball around. I think that’s something that we as a group have never really lost sight of, and are conscious of enjoying our time in Dublin jerseys.”