Name: Johnny McCaffrey
Date of Birth: 11/9/1987
Club: Lucan Sarsfields
Occupation: Games Promotion Officer
Favourite position on the pitch: Midfield
Dublin debut: 2006 versus Carlow (League)
Favourite memory in a blue jersey: National Hurling League Final in 2011
Biggest influence on your career: Parents
Funniest team-mate: Alan Nolan
Team-mate you look up to: Conal Keaney
If you could change one rule in hurling, what would it be: No square ball
Your best attribute: Striking off my left side
Toughest opponent: Tom Kenny (Cork)
One player from your club who you think deserves a chance on the inter-county scene: Aidan Roche
I love hurling because…” the buzz you get out of playing with the friends you grew up with and your team-mates, and going on to win a game then after training with them”.
The next question put to McCaffrey was a much more difficult one. If you were to nominate a new captain for the Dublin team, who would it be? “Who gave you these questions?” he joked, after some hemming and hawing. Another brief pause followed. “Rushey” (Liam Rushe) was the man who he eventually nominated.
Another tricky question wasn’t too far down the line. McCaffrey has been involved in some great Dublin teams at all levels over the years, but who is the best player he has ever played with? “Ooohh…” – More hemming and hawing. “Dotsy” (David O’Callaghan).
The 25-year old went on to speak about losing the likes of Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello to the senior footballers.
“Ah it’s their own choice, it’s a bit disappointing from a development point of view you know, lads growing up and playing both sports and playing minor at both sports, unfortunately they have to pick one or the other”.
“They could have easily picked hurling and it would have been a loss for the football side, but it is a loss for the hurling side, and we wish them the best of luck with the football”, he said.
“We’re very happy with the panel of players we have at the moment, and everyone is committed to driving Dublin hurling forward”.
McCaffrey agrees that the celebrity-like aspect of being a Dublin senior footballer is a major pull factor for young dual players.
“Playing in Croke Park in front of the big crowds, of course that would be an attraction for them, and you can’t blame them for wanting to go and play in front of that”.
“But as I said, as a hurling team we’re very focused and committed to driving things forward, and hopefully in the future we’ll get to that stage too where there’ll be a massive crowd following us as well”.
At the end of last year, news emerged that Tomás Brady would switch allegiances from hurling to football for the coming season. McCaffrey has absolutely no hard feelings towards Brady, and believes players should do whatever gives them more enjoyment.
“A lot of it comes down to personal interest and what people get the most enjoyment out of. When you’re putting in so much commitment throughout the year, in hurling or football, you want to make sure you’re enjoying it”.
In 2005, the Lucan native led the Dublin minor hurling team to their first Leinster title in 22 years as they overcame Wexford by 0-17 to 0-12 at Croke Park. The same year, McCaffrey was the captain of the Dublin minor football team.
He was then forced to make the big decision that so many talented young dual players are forced to make every year. Football or hurling?
The Dublin senior hurlers had just avoided relegation from the All-Ireland to the Christy Ring Cup with a 3-13 to 1-10 win over a Laois team who had beaten the Dubs convincingly twice already that year. Meanwhile, the footballers won the first of their five Leinster championship titles in a row.
Why did the 18-year old Johnny McCaffrey choose the fading hurlers over the thriving footballers?
“I suppose it came down to the love and the enjoyment for the game, I mean I always loved playing hurling; there’s a lot more skill involved in hurling. Just playing in matches and playing well in matches, it gave me the most excitement and the most fun”.
“I suppose the fact that the hurling hadn’t done well at senior level, and in the long term you could see myself and a couple of the other lads hopefully getting the senior team up to a higher level and start playing against the big teams” he added.
Any regrets? “No. In the end I’m very happy to have made that choice, we have made progress”.
He also mentioned that he is very proud to be playing a part in the Dublin hurling revolution, which he said “is still going on”.
“It’s great to be part of the team altogether. I’m just delighted to be on the team, and hopefully I’ll be on it for another while.”
Finally, he finished with what lies ahead for the Dubs.
“We’re very lucky at the moment that our panel is quite young, there are a couple of lads who are after coming through already and have made big impressions and are doing very very well”.
“It’s a lot different from when I came onto the scene first when there was a lot expected of the minors and under 21’s, straight away we were starting with the senior team and making an impact, whereas now they can go to the under 21’s and play a year or two there and when they come into the senior side there’s not as much pressure on them to make an impact so they can settle into the team. It’s a great set-up that we have and we’ve come on a long way in that regard I suppose”.
–By Darragh Twomey