For the clumsy oafs and low achievers amongst us, it comes as some small consolation to hear that Sarah McCaffrey found something she couldn’t master during her year ‘out’ in New Zealand.
She worked a ski season on the South Island as a barista and did lots of travelling, hiking and camping before moving up to spend her last few months in a big surfing town “which I tried and failed at,” she grins.
From a family of such high achievers and true blue football DNA, failure at anything seems a rarity.
Her dad Noel was an All-Star centre-back in the 1980s, served on several Dublin senior men’s management team and is one of the pioneers of Irish sports medicine which he still leads through his work in DCU.
Her eldest brother Jack (she has two younger) needs little introduction, usually an unstoppable blue blur and also a doctor who is taking a break from the game, with just the five senior All-Irelands, four All Stars and two Player of The Year gongs garnered.
She seems equally accomplished — a fluent French speaker and psychology graduate from Trinity who was working on the frontline with the Peter McVerry Trust for most of this chaotic year and has just finished there to start a Masters in health psychology through NUI Galway.
The fact that she’s also studying to become a yoga teacher comes as no surprise to her former Clontarf teammate and ex-Irish rugby captain Fiona Coghlan.
“She’s already so relaxed and zen,” says Coghlan of McCaffrey’s relaxed and modest personality off-pitch which is in dramatic contrast to her athleticism on it.
“Sarah just seems to glide effortlessly over the ground when she’s running but she is also very skilful,” Coghlan stresses. “I’m really delighted to see her back in for Dublin this year.”
The Jackies have definitely benefitted from the return of both of herself and Leah Caffrey (who was in Canada last year) at either ends of the pitch.
McCaffrey (25) bagged four championship goals in 2017, two famously off the bench to kill off Mayo in the final — the first netted, literally, with her first touch of the game.
That was Dublin’s first title after three consecutive final losses, none by more than two-points.
She still took off for a year’s travelling in 2018-2019, missing two more medals, but getting home in time last summer to witness their three in-a-row from the stands. Yet she doesn’t regret it.
“I was happy with my decision at the time and even looking back, I’m glad and I was delighted for the girls that they pushed on, but you’d definitely miss playing when you’re not involved. We actually set up the first Gaelic club over in Queenstown. I had gone over thinking I definitely wasn’t going to play any football, that I wanted a break. Then one thing led to another and we were playing in tournaments all over the place,” she laughs.
She’s right back in the thick of it now with a roaming attacking role in Dublin’s two championship wins against Donegal and Waterford, which were anything but a pushover.
Today’s All-Ireland semi-final in Kingspan Breffni Park (4.30, live on TG4) will decide if they make a seventh consecutive final or Armagh reach their first since 2006 and, after shocking Mayo last time out, the Orchard county, led by in-form Aimee Macken, should put it up to them.
DUBLIN: C Trant; M Byrne, N Collins, L Caffrey; A Kane, S McGrath, S Goldrick; L Magee, J Dunne; C Rowe, L Davey, S McCaffrey; S Aherne (capt.), N McEvoy, N Healy.
ARMAGH: A Carr; S Marley, C McCambridge, S Grey; T Grimes, B Mackin, G Ferguson; N Coleman, A Bellew; C Marley, A McCoy, A Mackin; C O’Hanlon, K Mallon (capt.), E Lavery.