Saturday 16 December 2017

McCarthy refusing to lose faith as he targets huge Toulouse upset

Hugh Farrelly

THIRTEEN defeats in a row, the latest being an abject loss in Aironi, but Mike McCarthy is still a believer.

The province's beleaguered supporters may be dreading this weekend's Heineken Cup assignment in Toulouse, but the second-row is convinced Connacht can cause the biggest upset in the tournament's history -- if they play to their potential.

That's a big 'if' based on their 20-6 Pro12 defeat in Aironi at the weekend, which McCarthy says left the squad feeling "embarrassed" with the knowledge they had let their fans down.

However, the Ireland international says going into the clash as massive underdogs works in their favour and says Harlequins have shown the way.

"I know we can win it because we have proven we can compete with the best sides when we play at our best," said McCarthy. "Toulouse beat Harlequins at the Stoop by a similar score to the one Toulouse beat us by at the Sportsground and then Harlequins beat them in France, so anything is possible.

"Gavin Duffy (Connacht captain) was saying today how everyone should be looking forward to it, it's like going to Manchester United, and I for one can't wait. They are not going to expect anything from us, no one is going to expect anything from us.

"I know for a fact that they will be taking us much more lightly than Harlequins going on our results. So, in that way, we couldn't be in a better place going over.

"We performed well against Leinster and against Gloucester away and Harlequins away, and you could argue we should have won those games.

"So, we know we are capable of competing against the best sides when we are at our best, but when we drop off one or two per cent we suffer, like we did against Aironi.

"We can understand the fans being upset and just hope they keep the faith. It has been a hard run of losses and we are embarrassed by our performance against Aironi.

"The performance was very poor. We let ourselves down and our supporters down. We just have to keep working hard, try and stay positive and hope it will turn around for us.

"The mood in the camp is very positive, we are sticking together and backing each other up and we're confident it will turn for us."

McCarthy, who was capped twice in August but missed out on World Cup selection, has been one of Connacht's most consistent performers during their losing run but says he has given no thought to the upcoming Six Nations squad selection -- focusing all his attention on turning Connacht's season around.

"I've made a few mistakes which I'm not happy with and I just have to keep working hard. It is not for me to decide how I am performing but I am just going to try as hard as I can and then wait and see.

"I was delighted to get the two caps in August and massively disappointed not to have gone to the World Cup. But I learnt a hell of a lot being in that environment.

"Things are the way they are and you just have to keep working hard, that's all you can do. Now, every time I go out I just want to play my best for Connacht and try to put my heart and soul into every performance."

Connacht will be without Frank Murphy for Saturday's clash. The scrum-half is due to go in for a groin operation today on a long-standing groin problem and will be out for three to four weeks.

Irish Independent

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