McCarthy: I never doubted I would be back playing again
Published 25/11/2016 | 02:30
There were plenty of dark days for Mike McCarthy last season and not just because he had to sit in a room without light, but through it all, he never doubted that he would return to action.
The horrific-looking injury that he suffered while playing for Ireland against France last February ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
It was difficult to watch on, especially considering that Leinster marched to the Pro12 final with plenty of the younger second-rows impressing along on the way.
When he did eventually fully recover from the concussion, McCarthy suffered a foot injury that kept him out for almost seven weeks of this campaign.
And to top it all off, he was struck down with a bug in the build-up to the Montpellier clash which meant that he missed another crucial game.
The veteran English-born lock, who turns 35 on Sunday, has managed to play 281 minutes in the five games that he has featured in this season and he now feels as if he is finally returning to the level of fitness that he was at before he was stretchered off in Paris.
"To be honest, I've been quite lucky throughout my career with injury, haven't had too many serious injuries," McCarthy maintained.
"That was on the back of having a few concussions so they stood me down. It's frustrating because you feel fine but you just have to keep thinking that Leinster and the IRFU are doing all they can to look after me and that gives me real confidence going forward.
"I didn't doubt I'd be back at all, I was just frustrated at the length of time I was out. As I said you feel fine in your body, you feel you can be out there and be training with the lads but the Leinster and IRFU medics really looked after me and I'm really grateful for that.
"I went to see a few specialists and they just recommended taking the rest of the season off. Jack McGrath, I was really upset, he knocked me out and I think he did it on purpose! We're friends again now," he joked.
Leinster's second-row is one of the most competitive positions in the club at the moment and McCarthy's return has only heightened the scrap for places.
Ian Nagle has impressed since signing. Mick Kearney and Ross Molony have both picked up where they left off last season. Devin Toner is an automatic starter and that's not to mention Hayden Triggs or Ireland U-20 captain James Ryan.
"I think maybe the last few years we haven't had everyone fit but now all the locks are fit so there's massive competition which is great and really driving us forward. I can see those guys have a long and bright future ahead of them," McCarthy said.
While, first and foremost, the former Connacht player is focusing on winning his place back in the Leinster team, McCarthy isn't ruling out playing for Ireland again. McCarthy has won three caps and just as is the case at his club, Ireland are also fairly well stocked in the engine room. "Yeah I definitely believe it," he replied when asked if thinks that he can win more caps.
"The guys that are there now are going very well but there's a lot of competition. Since I got the injury in that France game guys have come in and played exceptionally well so it makes it tougher.
"I need to keep working hard and playing as well as I can and I hope there will be another opportunity for me in the future."