Captain’s mantle sits easy on modest Cluxton

“An outstanding football player, an outstanding athlete and an exemplary individual. He sets the highest standards for himself and those around him. That’s what I’m looking for in a captain and he ticks all those boxes.”

Captain’s mantle sits easy on modest Cluxton

The words of Jim Gavin explaining why he had appointed Stephen Cluxton, seated just to his right, as his captain for the 2013 season. His goalkeeper could have been forgiven for blushing but this being the 31-year-old’s first ever media outing, he was focused on other things.

The press was something Cluxton had never entertained since he made his inter-county debut back in 2001. When he was made captain of the 2011 International Rules team for the Australian series, it was vice-skipper Ciaran McKeever who gave interviews.

This writer interviewed him for a short piece previewing a TG4 Underdogs game against Dublin but that was the extent of his media dealings, aside from contributing to a Sportsfile book following the county’s All-Ireland success two years ago.

So can we expect more from the enigmatic Parnells man? Perhaps not but at least Saturday evening marked a first.

Asked if he was reluctant to accept the role, given the heightened possibilities to speak to the media, he said: “I had a good think about it and Jim assured me of my role so I was happy enough to take it onboard and hopefully I’ll do the job that he requested.”

He suggested he’s not going to be the type of captain that will bang tables and knock out lights with bouncing balls in dressing rooms.

“I keep my head down and try train as hard as I can. If Jim thinks that’s leadership, then I’ll take it on my shoulders.”

“But there are so many leaders in that dressing room, there’s no need to have one particular one.”

Cluxton isn’t so sure his experience leading Ireland to a two-test series win against Australia will be a big advantage.

“The International Rules, the lads that were there were all the best footballers in their county so they are leaders themselves. I’m only learning as well and obviously Jim is going to guide me and help me along if he thinks I need to buck up on things.”

As for Saturday’s victory over Cork, he wasn’t reading too much into it. He himself had to make three point-blank saves.

“I think they [Cork] were probably a bit off the pace. We had a lot of lads itching to get games and because Jim has come in they are given an opportunity to express themselves and each fella has an opportunity to nail down a spot come Championship so for the first league game, it’s good.”

That said, Cluxton was pleased with how young defenders Kevin O’Brien, Johnny Cooper and Jack McCaffrey acquitted themselves.

“They listen. They listen to things during training and they listen in games and once you have that, it kind of settles a team and settles the defence.”

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