Dessie Farrell’s clarification around the Stephen Cluxton situation threw up as many questions as answers, as the eight-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper’s absence from the Dublin squad remains a major talking point.
The Dubs’ manager said Cluxton is not currently part of the Dublin panel, but stressed he is not retired.
- Farrell: Cluxton has ‘stepped away’ from Dublin panel
Have we seen the last of the Parnells club man in a Dublin jersey? Or is the 39-year-old merely taking a break?
“This is a very unique situation, when you look at a guy who has played 111 times [in championship],” explained Kieran Donaghy, speaking on Inside The Game.
“He has probably scored more points than I did in my career! Granted he played a few more games than me. But he’s a goalkeeper at the end of the day. How good he is, how much of a leader he is, how much study he does on opposition on teams, is he still doing that in the background? Is he helping Dessie in the background? Is there circumstances outside? Is there family issues? We are never going to know any of that.
“The guy deserves time to make his own mind up. When he wants to come back in, it’s his choice, and I’m sure the management’s choice.
“But I believe he has such a footing in that Dublin dressing room, an injury to Evan Comerford, something to happen there, the olive branch [could be extended], he could be asked to come back in.”
Should Cluxton return, Donaghy does not foresee any disgruntlement within the panel.
“I don’t think there’s anybody going to stand up in the dressing room and call this guy out and say you don’t deserve to come back in, you don’t deserve to try and win a record ninth All-Ireland medal,” he said.
“I’m sure he’s done enough in the 20 years to make up his own mind. I’m sure that’s a team decision that would come down to that. If he does want to come in, I’m sure knowing him and having played with him in International Rules, he’s a very straight-talking guy, he would probably ask the question himself, ‘Is there anybody that has issues here? If there is, I’ll walk back out the door. Is it OK if I come back in?’ If nobody says ‘boo’, he’ll come back in.
“But maybe it’s just his way of stepping off and he doesn’t want to come out with a big announcement. You really don’t know. It’s very hard to call. It’s only the inner sanctum of that dressing room that will really have the answers. The rest of it is just speculation.”
The Cluxton situation somewhat overshadowed Dublin’s championship opener on Sunday, as the reigning All-Ireland champions opened their bid for a seventh consecutive Sam Maguire Cup triumph with a 0-15 to 0-7 win over Wexford.
The margin was eye-catching, given bookmakers set the handicap at 25 points before throw-in, as Wexford came closer to Dublin than any other team in the Leinster Championship since 2013.
“It definitely did grab headlines because we are so used to Dublin being so ruthless, demolishing teams and burying them,” Donaghy said.
“Wexford looked like they put in a really good show and were well-disciplined in how they set up. Dublin not to score any goals, Con O’Callaghan not to score in a game, it’s just not what we are used to with them.
“It’s an eight-point victory in a Leinster Championship and we are amazed by it. That shows you the level this Dublin team have gone to, that we are expecting these 20-point hammerings every time they take to the pitch.”
The match was also notable as it was Dublin’s first away game in the province since 2006.
“I believe it was a very windy venue below in Wexford Park,” the Kerry native added.
“The wind was gusting down there. You saw Dublin inside in Thurles this year against Kerry missing a lot of chances you would not associate with them. It comes down to, they are so used to playing in Croke Park and you have seen how deadly they are when they get into Croke Park, that when you take them out of it, they are not used to going around to these venues.
“Maybe their accuracy was down, but some of the skills errors were not what you would associate with them.
“I would say the video review and what Dessie will go through with them this week, there will be skin and hair flying inside there because that’s just not what we associate with them. They know that if they want to get this amazing seven-in-a-row that they will want to play better.
“But I would not be too worried and I would not say there’s too much fussing. They know that they have the players, they will tidy up on those skill errors, they will tidy up on their shot accuracy, look to create a few more goal chances, they had one or two.
“Meath are coming down the line, and the narrative is already ‘Meath are going to put it up to them because Meath looked so impressive against Longford’. Meath got a backlash last year off this Dublin team, and I hope they are preparing for one again because Dublin are really going to want to come out and put that performance to bed.”
Watch the full discussion on Inside The Game at 8pm Wednesday on Sky Sports Arena.
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