"My head wasn't 100% in football" - Jack McCaffrey on Africa travels and Dublin return

The 2015 Footballer of the Year discusses his decision to opt out in 2016 and come back for 2017

Jack McCaffrey, Dublin

Jack McCaffrey ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Dublin All Ireland winner Jack McCaffrey says he hadn't been enjoying Gaelic football as much prior to his decision to travel to Africa.

The 2015 All Star Footballer of the Year missed Dublin's successful All Ireland Championship campaign as a result but is back in the panel for 2017.

Speaking to Off The Ball, UCD medical student McCaffrey explained the decision to opt out for 2016.

"I was in Africa for about 11 weeks," he said, before explaining why he decided to take that time out and head to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi.

"It had been creeping up for a bit. It was just that I wasn't enjoying football as much as I had been previously and that's something that's really tied in to my performances I find. So my head wasn't 100% in football. The decision was to leave. I wasn't quite sure where to go first but through college kind of got exposed to this option of going down Africa.

"I'd been there with my family a number of years before and enjoyed it. So I went ahead and threw myself into that and had a fantastic time."

Jack McCaffrey in the 2015 All Ireland Final ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

McCaffrey expanded on the need for a refresher, adding that at times on the way to training "it was a bit of sitting in traffic and thinking why am I doing this, do I want to be doing this and probably those journeys on your own are where you start realising that you're not 100% at it. That's how it crept up on me".

He added that with all of the sporting and educational commitments, he hadn't had "college summer experience" like some of his friends, and felt taking a break would help keep him fresh.

McCaffrey also credited Dublin manager Jim Gavin for being supportive of the idea of promoting a good work-life balance.

"He's aware that football, as fantastic as it is, isn't there forever," he said of Gavin.

The first part of his time in Africa was spent in Ethiopia with charity GOAL which opened his eyes to the work being done and the difficulties for people in famine threatened areas and refugee camps.

"It just makes it real," he said, adding that it gave him a desire to return at a later stage in life where he can make a difference.

McCaffrey then went on to Kenya where he met some of his classmates and experience hospital work there, before travelling to Malawi which he remembers as "beautiful" and that the 2016 All Ireland campaign was rarely on his mind while he was away.