| 24.9°C Dublin

Mac's a jewel and he could make you rich!

CURVE BALL is in a mood for sharing (wonders will never cease) so we'll let you in on a little secret today. Call up the Paddy Power website. Click onto its Gaelic football icon and move immediately to its betting for Footballer of the Year.

Now scroll down to a certain player quoted at 100/1. Think of it. Invest a mere tenner for a thousand euro return this winter. Better still, go for broke and wager a ton ... hey presto, you're ten grand in clover.

Now for the only snag, the reason why Paddy Power might keep your hard-earned dough. Our 100/1 shot rarely hogs the headlines, isn't renowned for the spectacular, and he's never even won an All Star.

His name is James McCarthy.

Last Saturday evening, this purring machine from Ballymun reprised his now-familiar role on the right flank of Dublin's defence. He gobbled up his opposing wing-forward (albeit a de facto extra defender) and then gobbled up the turf whenever he spied an opportunity to join Dublin's glittering attack.


One such surge led to their second goal: the move not only showcased McCarthy's effortless acceleration but also his brute power, as he played a one-two with Alan Brogan and then burst through a despairing pair of would-be Monaghan tacklers (Pádraig Donaghy and Stephen Gollogly). Cue a selfless offload to Bernard Brogan ... you can guess the rest.

Afterwards The Herald named McCarthy as Man of the Match, primarily because of his influence when the game was still a contest. In truth, it wasn't a straight-forward choice, (a) partly because of Monaghan's collapsing resistance once they leaked a first goal; and (b) mostly because a plethora of Dubs made positive contributions to the ultimate team display.

Dublin, you see, aren't overly reliant on the individual. When they go for the kill, it's a collective assault. Maybe that's why players such as McCarthy can sometimes get buried amid the bouquets of praise.

He does his job, nearly always efficiently, in a way that oozes class but often eschews the flamboyant. We can still remember one of his earliest championship starts, against Kildare in 2011, when the rookie appeared consumed by nerves early on, turning over possession three times in the opening quarter. And the next time that happened during a big match in Croke Park? Eh, to the best of our recollection, we're still waiting. As matters stand, McCarthy is in pole position for a maiden All Star. That is no guarantee he'll get one, of course, and not just because he isn't a 'marquee Dub'. There is obvious competition from elsewhere - a certain Lee Keegan wears No 5 for Mayo, but at least the All Star 
selectors aren't tied to the strict positional rules of yesteryear. There is the (slight) possibility that Dublin could blow up against Donegal and throw the entire All Star pecking order into tumult.

And there's that great 
imponderable - a sudden form dip. Remember how Aidan O'Shea was Footballer of the Year favourite before last year's All-Ireland final? Seventy underwhelming minutes later, he was warding off several competing claims, including one from his own household.


One final question to underline the strength-in-depth of these all-conquering Dubs. How many are All Star front-runners?

We can think of four definites (as of today): McCarthy, Rory O'Carroll, Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley. Several more with strong cases: Stephen Cluxton (whose biggest handicap is the recent stark reduction in shot-stopping duties), Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, Diarmuid Connolly, Alan Brogan. With a few more maybes: the rejuvenated Michael Fitzsimons, Cian O'Sullivan, Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan.

No inside forward shoo-ins for a team averaging almost 2-23 per game? Therein lies the beauty of Gavin's collective: when a sizeable minority of those scores come from the bench, it's hard to pick your strongest team. Or your guaranteed All Stars.

The move not only showcased McCarthy's effortless acceleration but also his brute power