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My knee has to be 100% to play again ..I'd rather rehab for two years than rush comeback; GAA MCCAFFREY TAKING IT ONE STEP AT A TIME; DUBS HERO WON'T TAKE CHANCES WITH INJURY.

Byline: PAT NOLAN

HAVING already taken a year out of county football, Jack McCaffrey could be forgiven for cutting every corner in a bid to pull on the Dublin jersey as soon as possible.

Maybe it's due to his background as a medical student, but the 24-year-old is willing to wait as long as it takes to ensure when he does fully resume playing, he's capable of at least emulating the type of form that saw him crowned Footballer of the Year in 2015.

On the back of his outstanding performances that season, McCaffrey took a break from the Dublin panel in 2016 and went travelling for some of the year, missing out on another All-Ireland medal as a result.

His return last year was relatively seamless until he jarred his knee in the third minute of last September's All-Ireland final win over Mayo, with confirmation of a dreaded cruciate knee ligament rupture coming a couple of days later.

"The first four weeks was to fully straighten your leg, the next four weeks was to do a certain exercise in the gym," explained McCaffrey when speaking at the renewal of his partnership with Denis Mahony Motors.

"It suited me thus far to have those small goals, I don't like the idea of picking three months away and working towards it and missing the date, you'd just be disgusted.

"On the pitch is the next goal and just build it up. I want the leg to be 100% when I do go back and I'd rather take two years to get there than rush it.

"I have heard lots of stories of lads pushing for a date to come back and setting themselves back to square one, that's the boogey man for me and what I want to avoid."

Nonetheless, featuring at some stage in this year's Championship is a target of sorts, albeit a distant one.

"At some stage I'd hope so. All-Ireland final to All-Ireland final is 12 months so most people I have spoken to are under that but, again, I'm not going to pull a date or a game out of the air because I just think you are setting yourself up for a fall."

Reflecting on the All-Ireland final, the fact the injury occurred so early in the game naturally diluted McCaffrey's sense of achievement.

"I feel I could have done a lot more for the team on the day. I feel I could have contributed a lot and didn't but Jesus, if we'd lost, it'd still be keeping me up at night but the fact we won, I know it's a bit of a cliche but you kind of just forget about everything else.

"Like, I was watching the game back at the start of this year in preparation for the 2018 season and some of the incidents in the first half, I just didn't remember. I didn't see. I was in with the physio at the time.

"Paul Mannion tripped himself up trying to pick up a ball inside the Mayo square, possible goal chance, and all this stuff that I then got to slag him about for a while!

"It's disappointing that I didn't get to play the game, there's no two ways about that. All in all, it was a good day."

McCaffrey said he was "bloody confident" he hadn't ruptured the cruciate at first but one look from renowned knee surgeon Ray Moran put paid to that.

"The lads did a couple of tests on me, and I knew with their testing, you are feeling for laxity, trying to compare differences between the two knees. And I was thinking, 'No, that's normal, that's fine'.

"Then I woke up the next morning, couldn't get out of bed, it was a bit of a disaster. Had to ring the team doctor to organise a scan and when I saw Ray Moran, within seconds, he was saying, 'Ah yeah, that was your cruciate. There's no doubt. Classic cruciate.' "And I was saying, 'But I could get up and it didn't look that bad'.

And he said, 'Classic cruciate, classic'. Right, thanks Ray!" irishsport@trinitymirror.com

CAPTION(S):

HIGHS AND LOWS Jack McCaffrey and Cormac Costello lift Sam Maguire but the game ended prematurely for McCaffrey, below, after cruciate tear

in the driving seat McCaffrey in Dublin yesterday to renew partnership with Denis Mahony Motors and, left, Dubs boss Jim Gavin
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Feb 8, 2018
Words:736
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