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Macauley sets bar high


Dublin's Darragh Macauley

Dublin's Darragh Macauley

Dublin's Darragh Macauley

THE spring just gone was a time of giddy anticipation for the denizens of Dublin football, as a new breed of Sky Blue mixed with the original of the All-Ireland winning species to blaze a trail to a first league title in 20 years.

But, initially at least, Michael Darragh Macauley admits that he wasn't exactly revelling under the new regime.

Jim Gavin came in and Dublin's main midfield man of the Pat Gilroy era was wondering (as all players do when there's a changing of the managerial guard) whether his face or rather his way of playing football would fit.

Then 'MDMA' started playing the type of ball that might have convinced the new boss, pretty quickly, to look elsewhere.

Harking back to those first few weeks of the league, even as Dublin kept on winning, Macauley recalls: "To be honest, I actually found it very frustrating. I just couldn't... you know when you need a clean run on things? And I just wasn't catching a break.

"I got the sending-off and then I missed a game and then just didn't play great and didn't get a full game and stuff. It was just kinda stop-start."

A cursory trawl through Dublin's regulation league campaign confirms the staccato contribution of the usually dynamic Ballyboden St Enda's man...

Cork: subbed after 46 minutes. Kerry: straight red after 58 minutes. Mayo: suspended. Kildare: off at half-time. Tyrone: on at half-time. Down: introduced again after 23 minutes. Donegal: replaced after 56 minutes.

"It was very frustrating for me because I'd done a lot of work in the off-season.

"I'd really planned on hitting the ground running this year," he expands.

"But hopefully all's well that ends well. The work that I have put in will still be there. And I've started to come ticking along now towards the end of it (the league) and I'm feeling good."

Macauley reserved his best league performance for the semi-final against Mayo while he was forced off by a knock midway through the second half of that edge-of-your-seat Division One final victory over Tyrone.

Now another championship – his fourth – is almost upon Macauley and he's in that typically bubbly, loquacious mood as the clock ticks down towards Saturday night's Leinster SFC quarter-final against Westmeath.

"Sometimes what you need is just a few good matches to get up and at it again," he reflects.

"I couldn't pinpoint why I wasn't playing well because I'd done the work. But I feel psychologically a lot better. I feel a lot freer. I'm really looking forward to a big championship campaign."

The 2011 All Star speaks in glowing terms about Gavin's selection ethos but concedes there were a few closed-season qualms, as he wondered would he feature in the new manager's masterplan. "I didn't know where I stand under Jim. I don't know if he's a fan at all of what I do ... but I think everyone's got a chance to prove themselves under Jim," he explains.

"It was very much said at the start that we really don't care who you are or what you've won or what All Stars you have or any of that crap.

"Lads really had to prove themselves. He stressed from day one that he was going to play in-form players and I think it's the only way to have it. No lad should be picked on their reputation – and I don't think they have been, to be honest."

In the midst of managerial change and widespread tinkering, Dublin still had the gumption to break their two-decades-long league duck.



In the immediate aftermath of their Tyrone triumph, Gavin famously remarked that "pieces of tin are difficult to win" – which begs the question whether Dublin, even while winning, had a blase attitude towards the GAA's so-called second-most important competition.

"It's a funny one," Macauley muses. "Lads wanted to win a league title; obviously you want to finish your career with one. But it's one of those things that we've firmly drawn a line in the sand under. It's good, it's there; but it's boxed off now.

"If lads are happy with just a league title, then they're on the wrong panel.

"We have bigger things to look at this year, and that's the way we're going about it. It was great to win it but now we're onwards and upwards into the championship."