Michael Darragh Macauley insists hungry Dubs still seeking the perfect performance
Footballer of the Year favourite Michael Darragh Macauley believes Dublin have still not delivered the perfection that they aspire to – despite their clean sweep of major titles in 2013.
The National League, Leinster and All-Ireland champions lost just one of their 15 competitive games in the league and championship last season, and up to the All-Ireland final they had won their five championship games by an average of just over 10 points.
But Macauley insisted yesterday that the type of perfection they seek, in any one performance, did not arrive and they had to rely on bursts to reach their goals.
"I wouldn't agree that we gave a perfect performance all year, or close to it, to be honest. You're always waiting for that perfect performance. In 2012, we kept thinking it was going to come and it never did," he said.
"We only played for 20-minute patches that year. There's always room for improvement. I'm sure there will be some sort of squad analysis to try and find out what kind of areas we can work on."
Macauley – speaking as an ambassador of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, which hosts a conference on concussion in sport at the Aviva Stadium on Friday, December 13 – admitted he was "anxious" about the arrival of so many new young players at the beginning of last season as Jim Gavin took charge.
But the maturity of the likes of Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion has proved him wrong on all fronts, he admitted.
"I might have doubted them because I wasn't sure if they were ready to step up to this level, the lads that are only 19 or 21," he said.
"But they've gone out and showed everyone that they're more than able to cut it at the top level – nominated for All Stars and so on.
"They're super players. You need that, it's easy to be lackadaisical in a team. Lads would have got too comfortable, thinking, 'sure I'll be grand, I'll get my game'."
Macauley admitted he would still like to feature at centre-forward – where he was for much of 2012 – but knows that competition there is more intense than anywhere else on the Dublin team.
"I don't think Dublin fans like me at centre-forward, but I do myself. I've played there a lot with club and county," he said.
"If Jim (Gavin) puts me there next season, I'd happily go there. There's a bit too much competition in that line already. I'll play where I'm put and I'm equally as happy in the half-forward line."
Macauley was initially suspected of having a broken bone in his foot for much of the All-Ireland final, but it emerged that it was nothing more than bruising, which has allowed him to feature for his club Ballyboden St Enda's, who are involved in this weekend's Dublin SFC quarter-finals.
It was his club's success in 2009 which was his entry route to Pat Gilroy's team after a few years off the radar. Macauley always believed that he had the credentials to be an inter-county player, despite being overlooked for a few years.
"In my head, I always felt I should be here. I've always had that kind of positive outlook," he said. "When I was up on the Hill, I was giving out, going, 'I should be down there.'
"Before that, I was struggling with injury coming out of minor. I had a bad knee injury and a bad back as well. I struggled for two years. But I was always determined to get to where I am now."
Macauley revealed Gavin's calm demeanour on the sideline is something he brings to all aspects of his interaction with his players.
"Jim would be very cool and calm as we have all seen on the sidelines, I don't think he flinched when Kev Mac (Kevin McManamon) scored that goal (in the semi-final)," he said.
"Not everyone can be an Alex Ferguson, giving the hairdryer treatment. Everybody has his own way about him and it's very relaxed at half-time.
"It's a similar situation to what you see of Jim on the sideline and he's very cool, calm and collected at half-time."
Macauley admitted that his touch from a Dublin kick-out to send McManamon away for the goal that turned that epic All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry was "a stroke of luck".
"I don't know... I heard about this touch for days afterwards and didn't have a clue what people were talking about. Then I had to go back and look at the tape," he said.
"I don't know, I just got a stroke of luck with it. The ball was there and I did what anyone would have done and dived for the ball."