'Blameless' McCarthy delighted to get his chance but admits he still has plenty to learn
Published 31/03/2011 | 05:00
James McCarthy returned to the normality of Wigan yesterday after a week that could turn out to be one of the most important of his football life.
Although those closest to him maintain he was never in danger of turning his back on Ireland, the questions over his nationality were finally put to bed and he can now move on into a bright looking future.
He may be a 20-year-old who has yet to contribute anything substantial on the pitch in his three short caps, but McCarthy has been marked out as different.
He brought about the biggest roar heard at the Aviva Stadium since the English rugby team were run out of town when introduced late on against Macedonia, drew plenty of column inches and was compared by Giovanni Trapattoni to great names like Michel Platini, Gianni Rivera and Sandro Mazzola.
The tactically rigid Italian changed his system to accommodate the attacking midfielder on Tuesday night against Uruguay, and although the ball didn't come his way too often, Il Capo maintained that McCarthy was without fault in a formation that will take some getting used to.
And the player himself was unfazed by a tough evening as he continues to build his reputation within the squad.
As for the comparisons with famous names, McCarthy is staying grounded.
"It's a different class to be quoted in the same line as players like that, but I'm James McCarthy," he said.
"I'm delighted that he (Trapattoni) has got faith in me. He put his faith in me the other night when he put me on with three minutes to go in a massive qualifier.
"But it's just about me working hard now and trying to get into the squad -- and hopefully I can do that."
His place in the squad would seem assured, and it's now up to player and coach to work out how best he can be used.
McCarthy admitted he'd had a frustrating night, but his manager reckons he was "without fault" against Uruguay.
"I wouldn't want to see him blamed because he has no faults, he's just trying to find his feet in the team," Trapattoni said.
"I saw him in difficult position (after 20 minutes) -- I could have changed the position but I wanted to see him sort himself out, to understand the position better. He was a little bit lost, but it's good for him to have this examination."
McCarthy agreed that he would take some time to adjust to the role between the midfield and the strikers, but he is unlikely to come up against a more effective deep-lying partnership than the Uruguayan pair Alvaro Pereira and Egidio Arevalo.
"I got 60-odd minutes under my belt but I didn't get on the ball as much as I'd have liked to. But it was one of those games. It was against top opposition and I'll take positives from it," he said.
"The position was fine. It was just trying to get on the ball and it wasn't happening.
"The ball was going into Shane (Long) and it was bouncing off Shane and going back to the midfielders. In the second half I tried to drop back and get on the ball more. I got more of the ball then. But it was disappointing to lose 3-2 even though it was a friendly.
"I play more in midfield for the club. I was trying to support the forward a bit more.
"I try to support the forwards when I'm at my club as well -- only not as far advanced.
"But it's great to get some game time under my belt with Ireland."
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez was satisfied with the way his side bounced back from a surprise 2-0 defeat in Estonia on Friday.
He said: "The team is the same, but matches are always different and opponents are different, but I don't know why the two performances were different.
"It was a game played with very high intensity and the crowd saw a very good match.
"Ireland were better at the beginning of the match, but in some moments, they didn't take care in defence and we were able to take advantage of those situations."