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Lock in search of key to open up pack


Leinster's Mike McCarthy. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Mike McCarthy. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Mike McCarthy. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

IT takes a different mindset to thrive in a winning environment than it does in a losing one.

Ireland second-row Mike McCarthy has made the transition from Connacht to Leinster with a humble attitude to work hard and learn well.

He is expected to be the senior international in a second row which will have to deal with the scavenging instincts of Paul O'Connell at the lineout in Thomond Park.

The omission of Leinster club captain Leo Cullen with a heel injury moves the burden of expectation onto the broad shoulders of McCarthy and the probability that Cullen won't be back until November increases it.

"It's a new, different environment for me. I learned a hell of a lot at Connacht. I think Connacht made me a good player. There is a lot more to take in for me, a lot more to learn," said McCarthy.



"I obviously realised, coming into this set-up, how successful they've been. I want to work as hard as I can to be part of that and push that."

In his earlier days, McCarthy was often spotted blazing a trail in the outside channels for St Mary's College in the All-Ireland League.

He had to knuckle down to change his body shape and the location of his work.

Not tall enough to dominate out of touch, he has sculpted a physique for work as an effective lock. It wasn't that long ago that he was seen as a legitimate back-five option, even mooted as the auxiliary weapon for the Irish squad at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

But he has not stopped moving forward.

McCarthy has switched from a club where he was one of few genuine international players to one where you almost have to be one just to start.

"There is a wealth of great players at Leinster. It helps me to keep on learning new things, to move forward and to improve my game".

McCarthy is in a quandary over whether he should have taken on a Masters in Business at Griffith College at the same time that he has to absorb a lot of information from his club coach, Matt O'Connor, and Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt.

"Maybe, I shouldn't be doing it (The Masters). Maybe, I should just concentrate on my homework for the Leinster plays.

"I am 31, nearly 32, and I am learning a lot of new information which is great for me personally. If I play well for Leinster, it might help me elsewhere".

It very well might as Leinster set out to disturb the well-oiled engine room that is Munster's O'Connell and Donnacha Ryan.

This is the sort of stage on which McCarthy can make a move to nail down his place in Leinster's Heineken Cup starter against the Ospreys next week.

From there, he can also make an impression on the man who brought him to Leinster in the first place, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.