'Once you start daydreaming, you are gone' - Macauley
Macauley adamant Dubs are focused on Laois, not silverware
Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30
Since last January, it's been almost non-stop for Michael Darragh Macauley.
A county campaign ran into a club campaign. And then the club campaign took him well into the new League season.
An injury picked up in Ballyboden's All-Ireland club final win on St Patrick's day offered a break of sorts. But he was still back to snaffle a few minutes in Dublin's League final win.
And now he faces a challenge familiar to county players everywhere as he looks to maintain his form over the course of the summer.
Macauley insists there's no reason why he can't do it, declaring he's now "100pc" after his injury. And he doesn't believe he is languishing behind his Dublin team-mates.
"You can't really beat games and I've had enough games this season that I've got loads of football into me," he said. "It was just about getting the body right, which it is right now. I've no excuses going forward. I'm good to go, yeah.
"Coming into last season, if I'm to pull out excuses, it's that I probably didn't get enough games due to injuries that were kind of ongoing for the year. But this year I've played a rake of games already, and a whole lot in the off-season last year when the guys weren't playing. So I'm kind of good to go, I've ticked all the boxes at the moment."
Just where he sits in Jim Gavin's plans remains to be seen. A former Footballer of the Year, Macauley might expect to be a nailed-on starter but Brian Fenton's rapid development has skewed the picture at midfield to the point where Macauley started last year's All-Ireland final on the bench.
And as Macauley was on club duty this spring, the Fenton-Denis Bastick axis continued to develop, meaning that the temptation to start Bastick and unleash the dynamic Macauley on tiring legs might be too great for Gavin to resist.
Though Macauley can live with that. Having everyone looking over their shoulder is healthy for the collective, he feels.
"Brian Cody was always a smart man in introducing a player or two nearly every year, never afraid to drop the so-called superstars or whatever," he said.
"I think just keeping lads on their toes can be a tough thing. Sometimes a medal can weigh a bit too heavy in lads' pockets and they can get a bit too familiar with it. We are going to have to make sure it doesn't happen."
On Macauley's best form, the Dublin management will find it next to impossible to ignore his claims.
And to find those advantages, he works on little things to keep him sharp. Yoga has long been a staple of his preparation, and he also squeezed in a little basketball this year.
"I was back with Éanna (basketball club), playing against players from all around Dublin. I was a bit nervous. It was a few years since I was back dribbling on the hard wood, but it went well, and hopefully I can get back in the off season as well," he said.
"That was a huge thing. I managed to get back for a few weeks, and felt so fresh afterwards. It was mostly short sprints. And I really enjoyed it. But that's behind me now, I've whipped out the O'Neills ball."
He leans on Bryan Cullen a lot too. Since making his debut in 2010, football and its requirements have changed, particularly between now and his earlier experiences with the Ballyboden senior squad.
"When Paul Caffrey brought in that Dublin team, they really hit the weights hard and they were big units," he recalled on a visit to Skill Zone, Dublin's first multi-sport indoor attraction.
"I remember I had just started training with the Ballyboden senior team and Collie Moran and Conal Keaney were on that (Dublin) team at the time and they came back and they had doubled in size and they were swatting lads away.
"People have gone away from that. It's less about looking for size and more about looking for power. It's not about who can bench-press the house anymore, it's about who can run the fastest with the house on their back.
"You're always doing something different. I apply the Phil Jackson quote: if it's not broke, fix it, and make it better. I'm always trying the latest fitness thing, latest weights thing.
"There is a point where you can almost get obsessed by that, but I don't think I am. I'm always open to finding something fresh."
So he is off on the hunt again. On Saturday week, the only thing that will be different will be the surroundings of Nowlan Park.
Despite what is being said by others, Macauley insists Laois are getting Dublin's full attention simply because that's the way they've always gone about their business.
"The day you start talking about the Leinster semi-final or Leinster final is the day that we are going to get caught, or soon to be caught because it's one of the strengths of this team that we've been able to focus on what is in front of us," he said.
"You have heard the cliche coming from a million athletes, that they don't look past their next race or whatever it is. You just can't. Once you are caught daydreaming you are gone."