Trap tips McCarthy for 'conductor' role
JAMES McCARTHY turns 22 today, safe in the knowledge that he is finally as important to his country as he is to his club.
There was a time when it seemed fair to wonder if the Wigan star would ever feature under Giovanni Trapattoni given his low standing in the international pecking order despite being a regular at club level.
The situation has changed since the European Championships, with the Glaswegian starting all of Ireland's five games since Poland. However, there was an asterisk next to that run of matches in the sense that either one of regular midfield pair Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews were unavailable.
They're present and correct in Dublin for Wednesday's friendly with Greece, but Trapattoni has confirmed that McCarthy is his man for the road ahead. He hinted that Whelan would be his partner.
Indeed, the Ireland manager feels that the youngster has the potential to play for one of Europe's top clubs once he develops his personality to match the technical ability.
"We persist with him now," he said. "He can be the future. There are sometimes shy people who need more time. When I speak with him, he goes red. But if he goes to an important team, his self-belief will grow.
"He needs to confirm what he can do; he can do 20pc, 30pc more on the ball. James has the quality to be our conductor. He plays simple, but always immediately.
"At the top level, it's Champions League, FA Cup, 70 games every year. You need strong personality and maybe he can complete his growing and reach his physical peak at 25."
Speaking on FIFA 13 promotional duty, McCarthy gave a knowing smile when the issue of his vocal presence was raised.
"I know he's always saying that I'm too shy to call for the ball," he said.
"Most of the time I am, but maybe not loud enough. I know he's looking out for me though, and I think I've improved on the vocal side of things."
Certainly, the rising star is not the type to go shouting from the rooftops about his own ability.
Although controversy surrounded the early part of his Irish journey, he doesn't court it and chooses his words carefully, stressing that he is only looking as far as next week rather than making bold statements about his own future.
As a childhood Celtic fan, he revelled in their success over Barcelona last week, although he could not use his ticket for the match due to a rescheduled training session.
He would, one day, like to play for the Glasgow club and, understandably, has ambitions of featuring in the club game's greatest competition. "I'm still young, though," he pointed out. "Whatever happens, happens."
With his father currently undergoing radiotherapy after completing a course of chemotherapy, there are far more important things in his world right now than football.
Willie still travels down from Glasgow for Wigan's home games when possible, but a trip to Dublin is a different matter.
"Hopefully if I keep getting picked in squads and he'll be back over," McCarthy stressed.
The Wigan midfielder is conscious that filling the ground for games is an issue, and is viewing this Greek encounter as a chance to atone for the "unacceptable" record home thrashing at the hands of the Germans.
"The most important thing is that we had a game straight away, which we won convincingly in the Faroes.
"The boss has stayed on and we're all happy for him. We're all behind him because we want to push on as a unit," he said.
"When we heard Sweden's result in Germany, we thought it was a wind-up but we're still in there with a really good chance."
Typically, McCarthy responded modestly to discussion that he is now a guaranteed part of Trapattoni's plans.
"He's not spoken to me about it; after the Faroes game he was happy with me and said 'well done' and that was it.
"I'll take it as it comes and don't want to get too carried away about it, now that we have Glenn and Keith here -- two experienced professionals.
"Hopefully I'll get to play in as many games as I can, but I can't take the huff if I'm not going to play."
Judging by the manager's comments, Ireland's new midfield general won't have to worry about reacting to exclusion for some time.