In his first sit-down interview since his decision to step away from the Dublin footballers this summer, Jack McCaffrey spoke to The Bernard Brogan Podcast about falling out of love with the Dubs, struggling with confidence and his ambitions beyond football.
Jack McCaffrey was just 25-years-old and already one of football's most decorated players when he walked off the pitch after the drawn All-Ireland final against Kerry at Croke Park last year.
EXCLUSIVE: ’The fun had gone out of the whole thing… I think the All Ireland Final broke me.’
Jack McCaffrey opens up about the reasons behind his decision to leave the Dublin panel on The Bernard Brogan Podcast 🎙️
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It was a glittering career that appeared only to be getting better. The Clontarf half-back was named man-of-the-match in that day's final, man-of-the-match in the previous year's final, had won four All-Ireland titles, six Leinster Championships and was 2015's Footballer of the Year.
However, walking off the pitch that day, the overriding feeling wasn't frustration or relief after a drawn game. Nor was it satisfaction with his own man-of-the-match reward. It was exasperation that he had to do it all again.
In truth, McCaffrey had already begun to fall out of love with his childhood dream of playing for the Dubs, as he revealed on episode four of The Bernard Brogan Podcast on OTB Sports.
"I think what broke me was the drawn final," McCaffrey told his former teammate of why he stepped away from the panel aged just 26 this year.
"The build-up and everything for the game... it went quite well on a personal level – obviously we didn't win but we didn't lose, thank god.
"I was walking off the pitch, I thought there was extra-time and David Moran just stuck his hand out to shake mine and I was like we don't have to do this again, do we?"
Shaking his head in discomfort as he recalls that feeling of being completely drained, McCaffrey added how he couldn't even bring himself to go to training before the All-Ireland final replay the following week.
Working in his day job as a doctor in Temple Street, McCaffrey relayed how he was in a clinic the next Thursday and decided to work through the evening rather than train with the five-in-a-row chasing team.
"If I had said to anyone, I've got training it would have been no [hassle]. I was there to learn more than anything at that point, it was a very specialised clinic and I was surplus to requirements.
"If I said I had training at seven I would have been told off you go, but I just kept my mouth shut and I stayed there until eight o'clock and I missed training.
"I was like, I can't go there. I just turned up and told Jim [Gavin] I got caught late at a clinic and didn't train then rolled into the next week and, thankfully, everything went well."
However, despite the historic success, McCaffrey knew he was still struggling: "I was so drained and then I never really got it back."
A new year came though, and McCaffrey did return when the 2019/20 season kicked off under the new management of Dessie Farrell.
Aware that his heart was no longer in it, a part of him still wanted to play for his former Dublin U21 manager who had such an influence on his rise through the county's ranks.
"I think if Dessie hadn't got involved I would have stepped away earlier.
"Dessie has been an incredible influence on my football career since I was 12. Once he took over the job I thought surely I can give him a year and a good go and wouldn't it be cool to finish what we started all that time ago.
"But something just wasn't right and it probably wasn't right since halfway through the summer last year when I just felt the fun had gone out of the whole thing and I wasn't looking forward to going to training.
"I had spoken in interviews about the love I had for the group and that was always true but it kind of suddenly wasn't really anymore because of changes in my life as opposed to anywhere else."
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