It appears we may have seen that last of Jack McCaffrey in the sky blue of Dublin following Saturday’s shock announcement that he is stepping away from inter-county football.
It is hard to fathom considering he has not yet turned 27 but various reports claim that McCaffrey has decided to take his five All-Irelands, four All-Stars and Footballer of the Year gong and call it quits.
If it is the last we are to see of the flying Clontarf man on the big stage, that’s a shame but he has more than earned that right and walks away with a legitimate claim to the throne of Gaelic football’s greatest-ever wing-back.
As footballers come, they don’t get much better than McCaffrey but the same can be said for his qualities as a human being.
Off the field, McCaffrey possesses a warmth that instantly draws you to him. His intelligence is obvious, his interviews are thought-provoking and his wit is evident. The GAA needs more personalities like him, especially today.
Here are the moments that made us love Jack McCaffrey.
The wonder kid
McCaffrey’s debut season came in 2013 while still a teenager as Dublin looked to build on their breakthrough All-Ireland win of 2011 with Jim Gavin taking over the reins.
After winning a maiden Allianz League title followed by a Leinster winners medal, McCaffrey announced himself as a star of the future in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork when he scored this goal.
A stunning goal ably assisted by Paul Mannion, another fresh-faced teenager on that 2013 side that claimed All-Ireland glory.
The best in the game
The game that McCaffrey will forever be remembered for will no doubt be the drawn All-Ireland final of 2019 when the Clontarf man kicked 1-3 from play in one of the finest individual performances Croke Park has seen.
He scored points off both feet while also netting the goal of the season following a run from the left corner-back position back that saw him fire past Shane Ryan in a similar finish to that in 2013.
McCaffrey was so often a joy to watch on the football field but on this day he entered another realm.
The laid back performer
Very often, an All-Ireland final performance for the ages is something that can come to define a player as it is the standout moment of their career, however, not many can claim to have achieved the feat twice.
McCaffrey can, as a year prior to his All-Ireland masterclass in 2019, McCaffrey put in a virtuoso display against Tyrone as Dublin overcame a rocky start to swat aside the Ulster contenders.
Dublin’s flying wing-back was pivotal throughout and the catalyst for Dublin’s first goal after latching onto a Stephen Cluxton kick out before setting up the attack that led to the penalty dispatched by Mannion. The 2018 final stands out in that it was the first time McCaffrey had finished an All-Ireland final.
Whilst receiving his Man of the Match award McCaffrey was the unfortunate victim of a flooding accident at the Gibson Hotel, true to character though, he took it in his stride.
We always knew McCaffrey had a lighter side to him but the entire nation got a taste of his personality on the night of the 2017 All-Ireland final.
Despite his final ending after just five minutes due to injury, McCaffrey refused to be deterred by his personal disappointment and clearly enjoyed himself at the post-match reception.
As Michael Lyster attempted to interview Jim Gavin and Stephen Cluxton (two men with little to say) McCaffrey entertained us all by drawing the attention to himself.
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) September 17, 2017
The endearing interviews
Dealing with Jack McCaffrey in the media was nearly as enjoyable as watching him play football. In an era where players are trained to say a lot but nothing at all, McCaffrey’s genuine thoughtfulness before answering questions is endearing.
McCaffrey is a warm individual but he’s not afraid to voice his opinions.
When speaking to this outlet at the beginning of 2019, McCaffrey didn’t hold back when expressing his disappointment at the GAA’s attempt to change various rules within Gaelic football.
However, despite that, in true McCaffrey fashion, he has a nice word for everybody underneath it all.
“I’d be a firm believer that everyone involved in the GAA is trying their best. We all love the Association and are trying to promote it and make it the best version of itself.”
As a fan, we’ve been blessed to have gotten the best version of Jack McCaffrey over the past number of seasons.
Given his age, it is possible we might see him return one day. Whether he does or he doesn’t though, he’ll still go down as one of the GAA’s great characters.