Monday 23 April 2018

Veteran lock still driven as ever despite miles on the clock

McCarthy: Aiming to stay at Leinster. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
McCarthy: Aiming to stay at Leinster. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

If he had the time, Mike McCarthy might wonder where all his time went.

He is 34 now and one can be assured that any talk about whether or not he will extend his contract - he would very much like that to be the case, thank you very much - will not be splashed in large black typeface across the back pages.

The London-born lock will make his 60th appearance for Leinster against Toulon this weekend but this represents merely a portion of his career; a fifth to be precise, as it will also mark his 300th club game since first lining up for Wasps back in 2001.

"I'm quite far into my journey, I suppose," says the Irish international. "But it seems like a lot of games. I suppose if I was a car I'd be an old banger!"

McCarthy, who also enjoyed two spells at Connacht that sandwiched a three-season spell at Newcastle Falcons a decade ago, realises that his career has less and less road left but he wants to make every mile count nonetheless.

"Well I realise I recently turned 34, so I'm at the other end of the spectrum compared to somebody like Josh van der Flier," he muses.

"But I hope to kick on and the body is good. I hope to keep on playing for another two or three years hopefully.

"My contract is up at the end of this season. Hopefully I'll be here for another few years."

Second-rows are a breed who have proved more than capable of elongating their careers, as Simon Shaw and Brad Thorn have so vividly demonstrated in recent years.

"Yeah, I suppose it's a position where you can lose a bit of pace and it doesn't matter that much," he smiles. "I'm still pretty quick I think. But yeah hopefully I can continue playing for another few years and I certainly feel that I'm capable of doing that."

If his importance to Leinster has been magnified in recent times, adding to his 17 Irish caps remains a clear goal; he was, after all, drafted into the World Cup when Paul O'Connell was cruelly felled.

"Well obviously I'd hope I'd be in the mix," says McCarthy, who last featured during the 2014 November series.

"But I'm just looking at this weekend and doing the best I can in terms of putting in a good performance myself. If I have put in good enough performances then hopefully I'll be there.

"Some quality players have been injured and then obviously Paul has retired, but you know, there are a lot of other locks playing good rugby as well.

"I'm happy enough with my form. I'll be looking for a big performance at the weekend. We need to win and I think we're quite capable of winning.

"I'm getting on a bit so there are plenty of things that need working on!"

And he is not keen to drain the engine just yet.

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