Tuesday 25 September 2018

McCarthy relishing his chance to make big Euro strides

Former Ireland U-20 captain Nick McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Ireland U-20 captain Nick McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Having come off the bench in the quarter and semi-finals of Leinster's march to Bilbao, it seems likely that Nick McCarthy will be making the trip to the Basque Country next month.

And if he gets the nod, it will be his first European final having watched Leinster's previous wins on television as a youngster.

The former Ireland U-20 captain has had an accelerated development this season as a result of the competition rules that prohibit Leinster from picking more than two of their three 'non-European' signings, and an injury to Luke McGrath.

It meant he was back-up to his former St Michael's schoolmate McGrath against Saracens and to Jamison Gibson-Park against Scarlets, coming on in both games. And he has enjoyed every minute of it.

"I wasn't at them. I remember I was at a communion for the one in 2011," he recalled of the previous wins.

"We were almost going to turn it off. It was that kind of game where we thought it was pretty much over. That fight that Leinster showed to come back and win the game was incredible.

"A lot of those lads are still around here - a few of the coaches or some of the rest are players. So you get a lot of belief off that.

Experience

"Saturday was a great experience. You really enjoy playing those big games and it is something when you're young you build up so when you get that opportunity to play in the Aviva in front of 50,000 people it is absolutely massive."

Although he had a few nervous moments against Saracens, McCarthy believes the experience stood to him in subsequent games.

"I think you learn a lot in the big games, even leading up to it," he said.

"The preparation goes up another level in those big games and you just learn a lot from Johnny (Sexton) and Isa (Nacewa) and these guys. They help you out and give you pointers.

"That makes a big difference. I was a lot more prepared for the big game.

"A lot of it is in your head as well. You are well able for it but you just need to confirm it for yourself.

"Whether there is 10 or 20 minutes off the bench when you come on you do a few good things, get some confidence from that and it is a really enjoyable experience.

"I only played four games last year and it is hard to feel fully part of the team when you are slotting in and out.

"You don't feel that comfortable in the environment because you just haven't done it enough.

"It's a bit more seamless slotting in now because you are just a bit more used to it and you can back yourself that bit more."

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