"Absolute pleasure to have soldiered alongside Brogan" says Jack McCaffrey
By Michael Devlin
Dublin star Jack McCaffrey paid a glowing tribute to teammate Bernard Brogan, who yesterday announced his retirement from inter-county football after a glittering 15-year career.
McCaffrey was speaking at the launch of the 2019 CurrencyFair Asian Gaelic Games in Croke Park yesterday afternoon, just minutes before seven-time All-Ireland winner Brogan broke the news on social media of his decision to hang up the boots.
At that time, McCaffrey appeared to be open to the suggestion that Brogan, a four-time All-Star and Footballer Of The Year for 2010, would stay with the reigning All-Ireland champions for another year, declaring he “certainly wouldn't be writing any obituaries for Bernard yet”.
“I think there's a possibility he will stay, which would be great. There's a couple of guys I want to meet for a quiet catch up and reminisce, and he's certainly one of those.”
But McCaffrey did accept the possibility that Brogan could call time on his inter-county career, before going on to acknowledge the St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh man’s phenomenal impact on Dublin football over the past decade and a half.
“If he wants to go, more power to him. It's been an absolute pleasure to have soldiered alongside him.
“Bernard is a guy who initially when I was coming into the squad and was 19, I would have thought he's a very strong character, all the ball has to go through him and that kind of stuff, just to see the kind of team-mate he's been, the kind of friend he's been.
“It's amazing that he has twins, he's married, he works in business, he's in a very different stage in his life than I would be, but the time he takes with everybody, from the youngest member of the panel to the oldest, he's just a fantastic man. He's a fantastic man full stop. That's probably the most important thing about him.
“Something I've mentioned in interviews before about him is that he really made the transition, in my eyes anyway, from being one of Dublin's best ever players, an absolute legend, to in the last couple of years when he's had the cruciate injury and things that at his stage would have stopped a lot of people in their tracks. He's just kept the head down and been completely and utterly selfless and gone about his business.”
Brogan’s announcement is potentially the first in a string of retirements that could befall the Dublin squad between now and next season. McCaffrey though was adamant that there has been no chat within the squad of other would-be departures.
“I’m sure there are a couple of guys to finish but I’d imagine they’ll be reaching that decision in the near future, but for the minute, no word.
“It is an annual thing that there is always a bit of evolution in the squad. Obviously the Dublin U20s got to an All-Ireland final last year so I’m sure there’ll be a few of those lads looking to come in and kick on, and you are right to point out that a fair few of us had been on the road for a fair while and have family commitments and stuff but again nothing has been said to anyone yet.
“It is big decision for anyone to make to finish up playing inter-county football so there is no sense rushing it in an off season we are only in October.”
The same goes for team manager Jim Gavin, for who there has been speculation that he may step aside after leading Dublin to seven All-Irelands in the past decade.
“I haven’t been chatting to him since the celebrations afterwards,” says McCaffrey. “I’m assuming and hoping he is back. I have said it before, I don’t see any reason to think he wouldn’t be, but no I haven’t picked up the phone to ask him.”
While still too soon to reveal when Dublin are likely to regroup for the 2020 season to begin their quest for a sixth successive Sam Maguire, McCaffrey expects the team’s management to take a different approach to how they get the new campaign off the ground, citing the various injuries the squad picked up when they reconvened after their annual team holiday back in mid-January this year.
“I’d imagine they might change their tack a little bit, whether that is coming back earlier or doing some other work, it has varied massively year on year. I’d say management will sit down and have a meeting and hopefully they let me know at some point.”
It's been almost six weeks since Dublin made history with the ‘five-in-a-row’ All-Ireland final replay victory over Kerry. Since then, McCaffrey has been back into his busy work life at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, as well as a Dublin championship campaign with Clontarf that ended with a quarter-final defeat to reigning champions Kilmacud Crokes. He admits that between it all, he still hasn’t had the time to fully reflect on last month’s achievement with his team-mates.
“It’s kind of at a similar phase to what it was immediately after the game. You are kind of celebrating for a week and a bit, then you are back into the club action and busy enough with work.
“I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and have a quiet drink or a cup of tea with a couple of the lads off the team and just reminisce on the year and on the couple of years gone by.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to doing and I’ll touch base with a few people to try and organise that, but everyone is really busy trying to squeeze in a bit of a life into three months. It hasn’t sunken fully yet.”
This weekend he’ll watch on with interest at the Dublin semi-finals at Parnell Park, where 2016 All-Ireland champions Ballyboden St Endas’ clash with last year’s finalists St Jude’s, followed by the meeting of holders Kilmacud Croke’s and this year’s dark horses, Thomas Davis.
“We've played Crokes and we've played 'Boden, both beat us and both are very strong teams traditionally. We've played Jude’s in the past who are such a consistent team and have been knocking on the door of a championship for a very long time now.
“Then Thomas Davis are probably the surprise package but have a really proud tradition in the Dublin championship, won the B championship last year. I'd probably like to see Jude’s win it because I feel they've been really close to it for a long time.
“I've really great friends in all four of those clubs, I think it's really open, there's nobody that's put their hands up and laid down a marker that they're heavy favourites.”