James McCarthy: Training spats in Dublin squad a good sign
DUBLIN footballer James McCarthy is only 24 and still a student, but he's looking over his shoulder as the latest crop of U-21 players pile on the pressure for places in Jim Gavin's team.
Four years ago McCarthy was one of the youngsters who emerged from the 2010 All-Ireland U-21 success to bring new blood to the senior side.
"The crop I went through with, we're all 23, 24 now – the likes of Rory (O'Carroll), Jonny (Cooper), myself, Dean Rock. We're not the young guys any more. That U-21 win (this year against Roscommon) probably ratchets up the competition to a new level."
Top teams don't hold back in training and Dublin are no exception. The odd spat breaks out, but it's not a problem for McCarthy.
"It's full-blooded. There would be fair bangs in training games. It boils over sometimes. You might have a few handbags thrown, maybe a bit more, but you just park it there, and shake hands. I always think it's a good sign when you see a few fellas rolling around the ground. It's no big deal. I always think players are in a good place when you see that happening."
Dublin still have a few weeks before they meet the winners of Wicklow v Laois and, in the meantime McCarthy, a Sports Science student at DCU, has a thesis to hand in next week.
The challenges for 2014 also include a Dublin SFC campaign with Ballymun Kickhams.
Dublin and Leinster winners in 2012, they lost the All-Ireland club title to St Brigid's, Roscommon in 2013, and were pipped by St Vincent's for the 2013 Dublin championship.
The Vins went on to win the All-Ireland last March. McCarthy (left) watched that final and admitted: "I'm not going to lie – it was hard, very hard. I'd be good friends with a few of their lads. I was happy for them, but disappointed for us. It would have been great to get to the final again."