by Dwayne Leavy
It has been a meteoric rise to the top of the GAA world for Dublin football star James McCarthy.
The DCU student made his senior debut against Laois in the Leinster Championship quarter-final and won his first senior All-Ireland just five games later.
McCarthy started every game during the All-Ireland series and his consistent form saw him nominated for the young player of the year award.
He is also part of the Ballymun Kickhams team who are in the Dublin senior club semi-final.
An impressive debut season by any standards yet with the season not over, it has yet to really hit home.
McCarthy said “It’s hard to describe the feeling. It’s the stuff you dream of. I can’t believe it happened to me so young, I’m one of the lucky ones that it happened to me so young.”
“Kerry are a class football team. Maybe the best footballers in the country. I thought it was going to slip away from us when we were three or four points down, but thankfully Kevin came on and turned the game for us”
“You get a taste of it and you want more, I wouldn’t mind getting a few more (All-Irelands, his father has three) hopefully playing centre back or anywhere in the half back line. “McCarthy lines out corner back for his club.
Like the rest of the Dublin players, McCarthy was in no doubt that Stephen Cluxton would score that last minute free. “No, not at all. Stephen is fantastic, an hour before training he’s out there kicking the 45’s. He is also one of the fittest and the fastest players on the panel.”
Unsurprisingly, he wants Pat Gilroy, the man who gave him his chance at senior level, to remain as Dublin manager. “Hopefully, I think he will stay on.”
McCarthy is definite in his belief that the current fixture structure needs to be revamped. “The college fixture list is something that needs to be looked at.”
“Last year I was playing U-21’s, club, Sigerson, county. There were stages where I was playing a game three or four times a week and training the rest of the week.”
“Sometimes I’d train twice a day, once at six o’clock in the morning, it was nightmarish at times but it stuck to us in the end. You have to work really hard; it’s a professional level basically.”
“You don’t have a social life; you have to make the sacrifices if you want to be serious about sport.”
McCarthy has yet to play for DCU this year due to club commitments but has been casting an eye over the side’s performances, which have not been too impressive so far.
“DCU have loads of great footballers, it was a bad year last year, and we slipped up badly against Cork.” (DCU lost to UCC in the quarter-final by a point last year.)
“We haven’t started too well this year either; it’s a bit all over the place at the moment. Everyone is with the club or playing U-21’s. Hopefully after Christmas we will step it up.”
McCarthy’s return to the DCU side will undoubtedly be a big asset to the management team. His laid back attitude off the pitch has contributed to a calmness and maturity on the pitch that is beyond his young age. McCarthy has already won an U-21 All-Ireland with Dublin and captained the DCU Fresher team to victory over UCC in 2009.
But individual rewards are not something that he sees as an integral part of his career. Speaking before the decision on the young player of the year award (which went to Cillian O’Connor of Mayo) McCarthy said “it’s nice to get recognition but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.”
On missing out on the International Rules panel McCarthy was more candid saying “it would have been nice to have been called up, but the Kickhams player leaves no question about his commitment to his club “I probably wouldn’t have been able to go with the club, (still involved in the championship) that’s another thing that needs to be looked at.”
In fact McCarthy could have been plying his trade in Australia if things had turned out differently. “I went over to Melbourne for two weeks. “It’s hard to say if you got offered a contract what you would do. You’re paid to play sports so it’s a tempting lifestyle, especially the women and the sun!”
Tempting indeed but McCarthy had his choice of sports as a youngster and was a noted soccer player, lining out for Shelbourne. “I didn’t start playing football until I was about 13. I played soccer all the way up; he (his father John) let me do what I want. I used to play with Shelbourne but it was clashing with football so I decided to concentrate on the football.”
Ballymun Kickhams are a football stronghold in the county but McCarthy reveals his disappointment that he never got a chance to turn his hand to hurling. “One of the regrets I have was not playing hurling, my club isn’t really one (a hurling club).”
One suspects that he would probably have been good at that as well.
Favourite soccer team? Liverpool
Favourite sport apart from Gaelic football? Hurling
Best trainer in DCU? There aren’t too many good trainers in DCU, maybe Paul Flynn
Worst trainer in DCU? DEAN ROCK!
Best dressed on the panel? Rob Hennelly, scoffs
Worst dressed on the panel? Pauses, Neil Collins
FIFA or PES? PES, I always was a PES man.