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'Shy' McCarthy says he will let his form do the talking as he seeks to bring Keane edge to international arena

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For all the suspicions that a meek temperament may be inhibiting him, James McCarthy's importance in the Irish midfield remains paramount. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

For all the suspicions that a meek temperament may be inhibiting him, James McCarthy's importance in the Irish midfield remains paramount. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

For all the suspicions that a meek temperament may be inhibiting him, James McCarthy's importance in the Irish midfield remains paramount. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Those Irish supporters hoping for a snarling and gnarling response from James McCarthy to the venerable John Giles' questioning of the Everton man's suspect temperament will be disappointed.

If anything, McCarthy's response leaned towards docility rather than hostility.

"I've had 20-odd caps," outlines the soft-spoken Glasgow-born midfielder. "I want to impose myself more on the pitch for Ireland. I've done well enough for my club and I want to take that into the internationals.

"But at times, international and club football is different. Obviously a lot of people think I don't take the game by the scruff of the neck maybe like I do back at the club. But it's difficult at times, a lot of people are saying this and that.

"Any time I go on the pitch I give my all. Since my first cap, I've did that since day one.

"I'll keep working hard and try and keep improving as a player. I'm no different to anyone else."

Perhaps, as Giles also alluded to this week, the 23-year-old is not, and may never be, possessed of the temperament that marked, say, Roy Keane.

Indeed, the Ireland assistant boss confirmed as much, reflecting a widespread assumption at this stage of McCarthy's development that, while his footballing instincts may need to accelerate aggressively, the need to alter his personality may not be so urgent.

"That will come with experience, getting more games under his belt," hints the one-time on-field firebrand who often drove his country by sheer force of will through difficult assignments, such as the one awaiting the side in Tbilisi two days hence.

"People say he's got to, maybe, establish himself more, establish a bit more of a personality. That will come. But it mightn't come.

"He seems a quiet lad. You know a change can change more than you think; you can't be somebody you're not."

Assuming a radically new personality doesn't always improve one's character. McCarthy, in any event, rejects the notion that he's too shy.

"I don't think I'm shy to be honest," he says, shyly. "There are a lot of people have said that in the past about being shy and quiet.

"I think once you get labelled with something, it's with you for a bit. I don't know when it's going to go away. It's part and parcel of the game, you need to talk. And I talk enough. What else am I going to say? I'm not shy.

"At first you're a bit shy when you come into the squad. (But) I've known all the boys for a while, I get on well with everyone, they made me feel welcome."

For all the suspicions that a meek temperament may be inhibiting him, McCarthy's importance in the Irish midfield remains paramount, such that he was always going to sit out Wednesday's meaningless effort against Oman.

Both player and assistant manager confirmed that his issue with a slight ankle knock and blister problems were resolved - "probably because players change their boots every few days," quipped Keane.

"It's just nice to have him on the training pitch," opined Keane. "I don't think he was ever necessarily going to be in doubt for Sunday. You want lads at training, you want to see with your own eyes that they are okay."

While McCarthy may yet get into his stride, and surely this is the campaign for him to assert himself comprehensively, Ireland need a quicker start with two winnable games to begin qualification for Euro 2016.

"It's massive obviously, it gets an away game out of the way. You want to get off to the best of starts and get points on the board as soon as possible.

"You don't want to be playing catch-up. We want a good start. The gaffer is getting his strongest squad and now we're trying to push on.

"It's now you want to start trying to take games by the scruff of the neck," added McCarthy.

"I just need to keep working hard. I want to improve as a player for club and country. I want to kick on."

Irish Independent