Recharged and ready to rock to a familiar beat
Frustrated morning raver Michael Darragh Macauley hopes to reap the benefit from his extended break
Wednesday was shaping up to be a long day for Michael Darragh Macauley.
By noon he was in Crumlin's Children's Hospital as part of an ambassadorial role to which he really has a deep affinity. As an asthma sufferer in his youth and being an "active" sort growing up, the bumps and bruises drew him there on a regular basis.
But there was also the side issue of a potential first step on to a property ladder that is already forcing so many to miss a rung or three. An estate agent may call with news of a conclusion. Or he may not. The phone will be watched intently.
It might well have been a longer day had he managed to persuade any of his friends to rise sometime before 6.30 and join the growing masses on their way to an early-morning rave in the city centre.
You can see how the concept of 'Morning Gloryville' would appeal to Dublin's unconventional, all-action midfielder. Energy is his thing, on and off the field.
Something of a phenomenon across Europe and the US over the last year, Morning Gloryville draws diverse crowds to city centre venues on certain Wednesday mornings between 6.30 and 10.30 for vibrant dance and music, yoga and even massage thrown in with a healthy shake.
It's pitched as a different way to start the day. Many will don suits afterwards and be at their desks by 8.30, more energised for the challenges ahead.
Macauley missed the last one in Dublin's Hangar venue on Andrews Lane, he had no takers this week but has vowed not to miss out next time round.
"I couldn't get anyone to go with me. I didn't want to go by myself. I was ringing around everyone last night," he laughs.
He likes the idea of people bringing so much positive energy into one room. "Half the room could be doing yoga, half the room could be dressed up in glow paint with glow sticks and going mental," he explains.
"Then they all put on their suits and go to work. It's strange."
His eclectic taste for music is renowned. Attending as many gigs as he can has become an exercise in navigation around the football calendar.
"It's a good sober activity that fits with the football whenever I can. A lot of my friends have a big interest in music. We have WhatsApp groups that we discuss stuff and keep up to date with what is on," he says.
Dublin colleagues have remarked how a conversation over coffee with Macauley will rarely delve into the intricacies of the game he has illuminated for the last five years.
He plays it but he has the capacity to park it quickly and keep a distance, remaining as oblivious as he can be to what's going on outside the Dublin dressing-room.
Basketball was his sport of preference growing up, taking him to international status at U-16 level and a spell with Notre Dame.
His awareness of space, the dexterity of his hands, his speed of thought and movement are all benefits of the sporting pluralism he enjoyed growing up and what perhaps drew Pat Gilroy to him in late 2009.
"I wouldn't be sitting here today if I didn't play basketball. There are loads of people out there who are 6ft 3ins and weigh the same as I do and have probably better scoring percentages than I do but basketball has given me better movement, better peripheral vision and things that are hard to develop when you are playing just one sport," he says.
"There are so many studies done, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, about kids when they were growing up and how many sports they should play.
"They all point to playing as many sports as you can and narrow it down from five when you are 12 to three when you are 15, two when you are 18, eventually to one."
Still, Dublin football gradually grew on him and when Gilroy plucked him from relative isolation in late 2009 after a fine campaign with Ballyboden St Enda's, the former manager had uncovered arguably the biggest individual success story of his four years in charge. Macauley was the one that didn't get away.
He admits his horizon for football was slow outside his own county. When he made his League debut against Kerry in 2010 he needed a crash course to familiarise with his illustrious opponents, then All-Ireland champions.
"I didn't have a clue who any of the players were," he recalls. "People were telling me so much about them and hyping them up as these big legends who had won the All-Ireland the year before.
"I didn't know what I was getting myself in for. Part of me was nervous, part of me was excited.
"I put a huge amount of effort into seeing if I could run with these boys. I was marking Aidan O'Mahony. I had been told he won these All Stars and all these accolades.
"I would have followed Dublin, going to all the games from my mid-teens on. But as regards other counties, I probably wouldn't have known what's going on."
That shouldn't be mistaken for lack of interest, but his concentration on his own game is total. Already he has dissected the findings of his proper seasonal return in Saturday night's 'death' game against Derry and found "loads" to work on.
He references it as his return because he has already had a false start earlier in the season, picking up a red card against Kildare in the O'Byrne Cup final. His performances in January had been somewhat undistinguished, the legacy of hand and shoulder surgery in the off-season and a nagging calf injury that needed tending to.
A complete break was ordered, elements of fatigue that had set in late last season perhaps still in the system.
With Macauley, especially, there can never be half-measures. His game is eternally effervescent and demands too much of him for anything to be even slightly off.
Cooling the engines of their dynamic-link man has had to be carefully calibrated by the Dublin management but the benefits he senses already.
Macauley started every game for Dublin in 2014, with an inter-provincial game with Leinster and a Sigerson Cup campaign with Maynooth University thrown in on top. He measures the winter off as the first 'real' break he has had after five hectic seasons.
"Towards the end of August, looking back I probably did get a bit tired," he acknowledges. "I would have preferred if Donegal had come a week or two earlier, just body-wise. It won't be an issue for me this year. I'm hoping because of the late start I had (that won't be the case).
"At the time you don't because all athletes are great at being in denial. I remember Jim Stynes saying that as well about finding the cancer. Like an injury, he would tell himself he didn't have it.
"The season dragged on longer. I played every single league game, every championship game. It's lot of minutes. People kept telling me they were adding up but I didn't feel it myself. In the long run they were right."
The break has allowed him to commit to the best 'strength block' of training he has had since graduating to inter-county football. But it's the mental benefit that he is feeling most.
"This was a first break for me and has served me right. Even mentally it can be a very long season. I'll always find myself in the midst of a season getting mentally tired at some stage and you need a break.
"I'm raring to go. The coaches are having extreme difficulty trying to hold me back from extra training.
"I thought I didn't feel the wear until now when I actually feel fresh. Maybe it did take its toll on me. It is definitely a blessing in disguise. These little injuries that have healed up and my body has never been better at the moment."
Macauley's career with Dublin has never wrapped up before August but the stigma of All-Ireland semi-final defeats has hit hard.
"I've lost three semi-finals now, none of them have been pretty. None have sat well with me. It's the worst one to lose. I would prefer to lose an All-Ireland final than a semi-final. It's a lot tougher.
"You have to watch the All-Ireland final go by, talk about the build-up, have everyone in your ear. At least if you lose a final it's done and dusted and it's all over. And being part of an All-Ireland is special."
The immediate challenges are stacking up for Macauley in the engine-room. Denis Bastick is rejuvenated, Shane Carty refreshed, Brian Fenton and Emmet O Conghaile progressive and Cian O'Sullivan still an option.
"We have a lot more in midfield than we've ever had. There are a lot of lads who have come in and really staked a claim there so it's going to be tough trying to cut your own path on the team," he says.
"It can be scary because you think you mightn't get back up to that level but I'm 100pc taking the positives out of it, I'm feeling fresher and my body is feeling so much better."
Michael Darragh Macauley is an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin, the principle fundraising body of Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. Michael was on hand to lend his support to CMRF Crumlin's latest fundraising campaign, 'Give It Up' for Crumlin