Wednesday 21 March 2018

'It's not like every person in Dublin plays football' - James McCarthy

Dublin star James McCarthy in Parnell Park yesterday Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin star James McCarthy in Parnell Park yesterday Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

As weeks go, it was about as quiet as it gets for James McCarthy - no early-morning sessions, no heaving weights in a gym and no weekend clash with another inter-county side ready to tear strips off him.

With last weekend's Dublin-Kerry clash postponed as the country ground to a halt under the weight of Storm Emma, McCarthy could do little but hole up in his house during a four-day hiatus from training. "The best I got was shovelling my Ma's drive," he said. "That was my conditioning work, 'Rocky IV' style."

This Sunday, Kerry return to Croke Park as a far less intimidating prospect than Ivan Drago - the Soviet anti-hero in 'Rocky IV' - but nonetheless McCarthy is aware of the Kingdom's ability to throw a haymaker when you least expect it.

After all, they upset the odds to edge the Dubs by a point in last year's league final, a memory which still loiters in McCarthy's mind.

"It was a horrible feeling," he said. "But it was no harm tasting that. We deserved to be beaten, we'd no complaints about it. It's a nice little reminder of what Kerry can do to you and how dangerous a team they are. There's so much scoring threat there."

What followed, of course, was a ferocious response to failure by the Dubs. They have since won their last 10 competitive games - six in last year's championship, four in this year's league - and as the snow melts and summer starts to loom on the horizon, few would wager on Sam Maguire venturing outside the capital later this year.

Which, as McCarthy has learned, is something that provokes as much ire as it does admiration. He's heard the voices of dissent - those who say the GAA has created a monster with an unfair funding allocation, who believe Dublin's population and resources mean they'll never be reeled in by the pack - but McCarthy thinks chiselling down to that explanation alone is unfair.

"It's not like every person in Dublin plays football," he said. "In fairness to Dublin, we got the ducks in a row and there's a lot of work gone into it. It doesn't happen by chance: you see all the ex-players involved, all the depth of squads - that's had a big impact."

Professor Niall Moyna, a former member of the Dublin backroom team who worked closely with McCarthy during his time at DCU, recently called on the GAA to redistribute revenue outside the capital, given Dublin received a whopping €1.46m of the GAA's games development funding in 2016, with Cork the next highest at €249,000.


But McCarthy can see the other side, too. "It's promoting Gaelic games and if they didn't pump it in, it'd probably die a death in some areas in Dublin. It is tough, but other counties seem to be doing similar things now, getting their structures in place."

In the end, McCarthy believes it comes down to talent, something there's been a deluge of in Dublin.

"We've had an exceptional bunch of players the last few years," he said. "But there's a lot of guys pushing on, so you never know, it might change again in a few years."

And despite Kerry's poor start to the league campaign - two wins, two losses, which leaves them faltering in fourth place - McCarthy expects a backlash from them this weekend.

"They're young, they're brash, they're going to be coming up and want to take you on. The few clips I've seen, they look very good players and they physically seem ready for it. Both teams will go at it hard."

Dublin's dominance has naturally imbued the team with a strong self-belief, as evidenced by their precision under pressure in recent years in the most pivotal moments, which McCarthy says is no accident.

"Pat Gilroy came in and his big thing was to bring the steel, mentally toughen up the team. It's an attitude just to attack the game when it's there. You want to swing and not be sitting there waiting for things to happen. Collectively, we're very good at doing that."

James McCarthy was speaking at the launch of Ballygowan & Energise Sport as the official hydration partner of Dublin GAA

Irish Independent

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