Ciaran Whelan worried Stephen Cluxton might call it a day

Dublin V Meath

“The fact that he doesn’t appear to be back in the camp is worrying I think.”

Former Dublin Gaelic footballer Ciaran Whelan is unsure as to whether or not Stephen Cluxton will play another match for his county.

The legendary goalkeeper has not returned to the Dublin panel yet in 2021 and Dessie Farrell’s side are due to play their first championship game on the first weekend of July.

Speaking on the RTE GAA podcast, Whelan remarked how it is concerning for Dublin supporters that Cluxton has not returned to the fold.

Stephen Cluxton has not played for Dublin since the All-Ireland final.

“I hope we haven’t seen the last of him in a Dublin jersey to be honest, but he’s missing in action by all accounts,” Whelan said.

“You’d be hoping that word would filter through that he’s back in the squad but I don’t think that has happened to date.

“The strange thing about Cluxton is he’s never not played in a league game. He’s always played at the latter end of the league.

“He’s always contributed in some shape or form to the league when Dublin got to the latter stages of it.

“I know this year was different but the fact that he doesn’t appear to be back in the camp is worrying I think.

“We all know the type of character he is – if he decided to call it a day he might not tell anybody.

Ciaran Whelan and Stephen Cluxton played together for years.

Whelan stated that one of Cluxton’s greatest strengths is his ability to bounce back from mistakes and the former Raheny footballer thinks that Dublin’s rivals will benefit hugely if he hangs up his gloves.

“It’s a concern. I know he’s touching 40 but what he means to that Dublin team is massive and I’m sure all the other competitors in the teams that are looking to take the Dubs down a notch or two are looking on the outside saying I hope to God he doesn’t come back,” he continued.

“When it comes to the real, pressure cooker time in a match… In big games, we’ve seen him in the second half of All-Ireland finals just deliver clinical performances.

“He’s the type of player that when he has been rattled or he has one or two that go astray he’s able to get it back on track quickly and others may not be in that position to do that.”

Evan Comerford has been Dublin’s sub goalkeeper in recent campaigns.

The 45-year-old is a huge fan of Evan Comerford but pointed out that the Dublin sub goalkeeper has not played in a massive game in Croke Park when he has been put under huge pressure.

“By God I hope he’s back and if he’s not I think it would be a significant weakness in the Dubs. Evan Comerford is a great goalkeeper,” the two-time All-Star said.

“Like he’s still a young lad and he still hasn’t been put into that melting pot properly in Croke Park on a big day game, when you have the likes of David Clifford or Sean O’Shea in front of you and stuff like that and the Kerry forward line that’s coming down the tracks so we’ll have to see.

“The word is not good at the moment so I’ve no inside track. Nobody knows whether he’s retired but he’s certainly not back which is the worrying part.”

Cluxton made his Dublin debut 20 years ago.

Cluxton’s first year on the panel saw him start on the bench for that famous All-Ireland quarter-final clash between Dublin and Kerry, when Maurice Fitzgerald’s monster sideline effort secured a draw for the Kingdom.

Whelan felt that Dublin might have won that game had Cluxton started in goals and noted how the free he registered to win the 2011 All-Ireland final came after years of practice.

“I played with him from the start, when he started his career. I always felt that even going back as far as 2001, when we played the two games in Thurles and he had played in the Leinster championship that year,” Whelan added.

“I always felt he should have been in goal. You look at Maurice Fitzgerald’s point. What did it come from? A kick-out. You always look back and you are thinking if Cluxton had have been in…

“He probably learned so much in those first six or seven years, integrating into an inter-county set-up. He learned the pitfalls, he had the hurt, he had everything that went with it.

“Then to turn that corner in 2011 and to be instrumental in it and then to captain the team. It’s the standards that he sets – even within that dressing room he wouldn’t hesitate to tell somebody when their standards had dropped.

“He set that bar. He was the guy there an hour before training. You say that was an easy kick – he’d probably taken that kick a thousand times before he got it in 2011. It’s all the sums that make him such a brilliant iconic player.”

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