Macauley straining at leash to get back in the blue for Dubs
'They can take their gear and good luck to them. Because they're no use to us'
Michael Darragh Macauley admits that the clock is ticking on "a particularly big four weeks" for him personally as he attempts to win back a starting spot back in the Dublin team for their All-Ireland semi-final on August 30.
This, for the record, is no transparent attempt to feign marginalisation from a player confident in his spot in the grander scheme of things.
Macauley was, as he explained yesterday at the launch of a new GAA-licenced football, straight-up overlooked by Jim Gavin last Sunday in favour of Denis Bastick and Brian Fenton.
He doesn't bear a grudge. But nor did he seem particularly enamoured with the situation.
Named in Jim Gavin's starting 15 in last Sunday's quarter-final win over Fermanagh he was one of two (Paddy Andrews for Kevin McManamon being the other) late changes to the Dublin team, dropped for Bastick, for whom he appeared as a half-time substitute.
Asked why, the Ballyboden player responded: "I don't pick the team. That was Jim Gavin's decision. I'm just going to have to work a bit harder to get in the next day."
He continued: "It was a bit of a strange one, to be honest. That's the the way it goes.
"I have my own ideas going forward about how I can improve my own game and I'm hoping to implement it for the semi-final."
When quizzed as to whether he saw his demotion coming, the 2013 Footballer of the Year admitted: "Not particularly. I probably didn't see it coming, to be honest. But that's the way it goes. So Jim had his own ideas. But there's no ill will over it.
"It was what it was. It's done now. Just going to have to look forward now to the semi-final and try and be in a better position.
"You just kind of have to get on with it, to be honest," Macualey continued.
"Maybe it's a bit of a wake up, if it was possibly needed. It's definitely given me a bit of a kick that I didn't think I needed, but maybe I did.
"So I have a particularly big four weeks ahead of me going into this All-Ireland semi-final. I'm definitely going to do everything possible I can do to get that jersey back. But we'll see. It should be interesting."
Macauley began the summer in reserve, though his absence from the team that hammered Longford was mostly explained by his lack of football through winter and spring, when he spent most of his time recovering from hamstring and calf injuries.
Having been recalled and started against Kildare and Westmeath, he fell short of his best form and last Sunday's removal from the team, whilst unexpected, may be as an indirect consequence.
"I think initially, at the start of the year, because I missed the whole League campaign and O'Byrne Cup, I was lacking a bit of fitness," he outlined.
"And I went after the fitness thing very hard and I got fitter than I've ever been. But in that, I probably sacrificed a bit of ball work.
"So I need to get my hands on a ball more often and get a bit of game-time.
"So I'm blessed now that we have a four-week period and I can really hone in on that.
"Just a bit of match sharpness. I'll discuss how I'm going to fix that," added the Boden man.
Week one of four is almost up and according to Macauley, Dublin have enjoyed a "down week" - a gift for those in the team but perhaps an unnecessary lull for those - like him - attempting to break back into it.
"We can put a bit more polish on it next week when we have a name in front of us of who we're going to play," he explained.
"With a four-week break, we'll have a few more internal games and a bit more match practice.
"There will definitely be times to shine. And I'll just have to take advantage of that."
And not that it needed any justification, but Macualey said that his sense of disappointment at not starting was one of the Dublin squad's more productive traits.
"No one should just be happy with getting onto the Dublin squad.
"No one should just be happy getting into the 26. Lads shouldn't be happy until they have that starting jersey.
"And that's the kind of culture we've always tried to breed within the Dublin team.
"And anyone who is happy just getting their gear bag or is happy telling people they made the 26 or telling people they made the 35 at the start of the year, there's just no space for them on the Dublin team.
"They can take their gear and good luck, to be honest. Because it's no use to us if lads are too comfortable.
"If Brian Fenton was happy sitting as number 26 on the bench, it would be no use to us.
"Because we need that standard being driven all the time.
"And thankfully," Macauley concluded, "we have a panel of 30 plus players who can do that and aren't happy until they get on the team."