100 not out: Stephen Cluxton to set another GAA record

Dublin goalkeeper due to complete a century of league appearances against Mayo

 Stephen Cluxton:  has conceded just 67 goals in those last 99 league games he has played. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Stephen Cluxton: has conceded just 67 goals in those last 99 league games he has played. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The scary thing is it probably means nothing whatsoever to Stephen Cluxton that he’s poised to make his 100th league appearance for Dublin. It will hardly merit a thought in his head, or a tip of his goalkeeping cap for that matter.

Most players will tell you they don’t look back on their career until it’s over, although that rarely rings true: they’re more likely to know every little detail of how long they’ve played, what they’ve scored, or indeed conceded.

Cluxton has always come across as a little different on that front. It’s one thing to single-handedly revolutionise the modern goalkeeping position; it’s another thing to do it with a level of consistency and longevity now unrivalled in the modern game. And the only time he’s ever hinted at looking back is on those rare occasions he turns around to collect the ball out of his own net

Last summer, in his 17th championship season with Dublin, Cluxton ended up making his 91st appearance – the now all-time football record. He first equalled then joint record holders Tomás and Marc Ó Sé from Kerry, with 88 each, in the Leinster final against Kildare.

With three more appearances, including the All-Ireland final win over Mayo, Cluxton signed out the season on 91, only still counting. At 36, and the new Super Eights format allowing for more championship games per summer that usual, he may well eclipse the century mark on that front too. 

Stephen Cluxton making his first league appearance for Dublin against Donegal in 2002. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Stephen Cluxton making his first league appearance for Dublin against Donegal in 2002. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Barring injury, the Parnells man is certain to start in goal for Dublin when they renew their recent rivalry against Mayo in round four of the Allianz Football League, that game set for MacHale Park on Saturday evening. 

Last Saturday week against Donegal, he made his 99th league appearance – neatly book-ending his first appearance also against Donegal, back in 2002. (He’d actually made his championship debut in 2001, under then manager Tommy Carr, for two rounds of the Leinster championship, replacing the injured Davy Byrne.) 

Suspension

When Tommy Lyons took charge in 2002, he gave Cluxton, his under-21 goalkeeper, the number one jersey – and he’s more or less held it ever since. Over the next 16 summers, he only missed one championship game, the shock 2004 Leinster quarter-final loss to Westmeath, that in fact resulting from the suspension carried over from the previous summer when he was red-carded against Armagh in the third round qualifier. 

Cluxton has sat out a few more league games, 26 in total of the 123 that Dublin have played since the start of 2002. But he started in all eight of Dublin league games in 2017, while Evan Comerford from Ballymun Kickhams, currently the number two goalkeeper in Jim Gavin’s squad and the under-21 All-Ireland winner from last year, has yet to make a single league appearance. 

Cluxton’s net-minding record is not bad either: he has conceded just 67 goals in those last 99 league games, keeping a clean sheet the last day against Donegal, while conceding one to Tyrone in round, and two goals to Kildare in the opening round. He’s also scored 0-18 in his league career to date. 

Also the first footballer to captain four All-Ireland winning teams, and winning a fifth in 2011, Cluxton has won a record 13 Leinster medals, four National Football League medals, and five All Stars – and soon to make it 100 in league appearances.

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