Sunday 25 August 2019

Carty kicks on in ultimate goal of bagging a place on plane to Japan

Connacht out-half Jack Carty is in for the Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award along with Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan. Photo: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Connacht out-half Jack Carty is in for the Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award along with Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan. Photo: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Des Berry

Jack Carty has turned his hard work on the training ground into personal and collective gains this season.

The merit of his work for Connacht and around the fringes for Ireland has led to a nomination for the Zurich Players' Player of the Year award, alongside James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Beirne.

"To get recognised by my fellow players is something that is a huge honour for me," he says.

"I don't think you can get voted by players in your own province. To get voted by the Leinster, Munster and Ulster players is something I'm proud of."

It is incredible the difference a new coach and a new season can make.

The replacement of Kieran Keane with Andy Friend as head coach has washed away any of the residual hurt and animosity at a lost season.

Better

"On the pitch, at the start of the season, Andy talked about how every player has a weapon," said Carty.

"He talked to everyone, one-on-one, going, 'what's your weapon? What's your 'work-on'?'

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"Instead of focusing on what every-one's work-on is, he is always focused on what everyone's weapon is. If players can bring their weapon on the training ground and on to the pitch every week, Connacht will be much better.

"Then, he does go back to your work-ons and says, 'if you're tipping away at those, trying to get better, we are going to be in a good spot'.

Last season, the main problem for Carty was that he couldn't quite hit the spot that makes all the difference to his confidence; the out-half's primary work-on was his goal-kicking.

"I think there's only a difference of maybe 5.5pc, which I suppose at the top level is massive," he says.

"It was at 72-73pc and I knew if I wanted to play international rugby it had to be 80pc-plus," he adds after lifting his strike rate to 81.6pc, until hitting four of seven in his last game.

"I've probably got my goal-kicking to a place where I'm confident with it"

The 26-year-old has also learned that, sometimes, less leads to more.

"I was probably goal-kicking too much during the week last year. I have reined that in and focused on quality.

"We have a forward pack (in Connacht) that has been dominant 90pc of the time, especially at the scrum.

"When you're winning penalties in kickable zones on the pitch, first, if you get it, it is rewarding them for their hard work. If you miss a kick that you should get, you feel like you are letting those lads down. I'm just happy that, more times than not, I've been able to reward them."

There is a solid case to be made that Carty has moved to seriously challenge Joey Carbery as Jonathan Sexton's back-up-man for Ireland and the three-horse race between Carty, Carbery and Ross Byrne for Japan is heating up.

"There's going to be one of us or two of us disappointed come September," says Carty. "Everyone is trying to work so that it isn't them I suppose."

Connacht are back in the PRO14 play-offs against Ulster in Belfast on Saturday and Carty will hope he can serve up another reminder of his progress to Joe Schmidt.

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