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Saturday 3 December 2016

Macauley: I hope I haven't peaked just yet

Former Footballer of the Year determined to play more central part for Dublin again after bench role in 2015 All-Ireland win

Michael Darragh Macauley believes Ballyboden St Enda’s are underdogs for Sunday’s Leinster final
Michael Darragh Macauley believes Ballyboden St Enda’s are underdogs for Sunday’s Leinster final
Ballyboden St Enda’s Michael Darragh Macauley alongside Paul Cahillane from Portlaoise ahead of their AIB GAA Leinster Senior Football Club Championship Final clash this Sunday

It is with a tone of almost palpable intent that Michael Darragh Macauley says: "I definitely would hope that my inter-county career hasn't peaked, or nowhere near it."

Adding: "I'm not in line to be a super-sub just yet."

Given he's been Footballer of the Year as recently as two years ago and this September, picked up a third All-Ireland medal, it's testing even his positivity to envisage any loftier peaks than those already scaled.

Still, there's almost a sigh from the Dublin midfielder when he recalls - and not for the first time: "The Championship that I foresaw for myself wasn't how it played out."

To recap.

An unfortunate succession of minor but regular injuries left Macauley in the starting blocks when those against whom he competed for a midfield spot - most notably Dublin's most unexpected star of 2015, Brian Fenton - were already halfway down the track.

Macauley was left with too much to do to get back into Jim Gavin's starting alignment but in this, he insists, he has "absolutely no regrets".

"I put in a monstrous amount of effort to get myself right," Macauley recalls.

"And I was … I had my body right. I was really looking forward to the back end of the Championship but things didn't go my way."

He was one of a posse of subs to make a forceful impact from reserve against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final replay, after which it was widely felt that Macauley had enough credit in the bank to command a final starting spot.

"I thought that I gave myself a shot. Other people thought that I had shot myself in the foot," he admits.

"At the end of the day, all these decisions are down to Jim Gavin and his team and now, there's no questioning it. There's another All-Ireland in the bag and everyone's happy.

"So look, all I have to do is improve next year and try and prove them wrong and get back into a more central role next year.

"In saying that, an All-Ireland is an All-Ireland. I know how hard they are to come by.

"I still enjoyed this one as much as the other two but it was different.

"I had fully planned on starting and starring in the final," he admits.

"That wasn't to be. I was disappointed in that.

'That's the way it goes, a little bit late getting to the pitch of things, that's down to match practice. I just missed too many games at the start of the year, it's really hard to make up for that.

advanced

"I know now there are plenty of lads who are injured, that are going to miss a few matches coming into the start of next year, they really have to be on the ball to make sure they are sharp come championship time."

Conversely, he's a sight sharper than many of his Dublin colleagues tend to be at this advanced stage of the football calendar.

Ballyboden St Enda's play Portlaoise on Sunday in the AIB Leinster club final in Tullamore (2.0) and he bears fewer summer scars than has been the case in his recent, active inter-county years.

"My body does definitely (feel better) because if I had played as I played in 2014, in terms of games where I played every single game and was still going, it probably would have taken its toll," Macauley points out.

"My body feels a hundred per cent at the moment. I suppose the way it worked out with Dublin it didn't benefit me in terms of my inter-county career because things didn't go to plan, missing the league, but in terms of my physical health at the moment, it has stood to me."

It might seem like an afterthought to the main business of his year but Macauley insists: "A county title was definitely on my list of things to do this year because I knew how good this Ballyboden team was.

"The age profile we had this year meant that a county title was what this team deserved.

"That doesn't mean we were going to get it but I knew it was within our grasp.

"When you win an AIl-Ireland," he outlines, "you're on a high and have to come down off of that.

"It takes a game to get back into the rhythm of it.

"And it was the same winning Dublin with the club, you're on a high and the next week we'd a tough game in Louth but now we're back on the road and focused."

fury

"We know how hard they are to come by so this is completely unprecedented territory for us in a Leinster final.

"Portlaoise are very experienced when it comes to Leinster," he adds, drawing on a boxing metaphor for Sunday.

"They are the Klitschko, we're like the (Tyson) Fury coming into this.

"But if you look at last weekend," Macauley concludes, "sometimes the Fury can beat the Kiltchko."

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