Michael Darragh Macauley: I want to get back in the Dubs starting line-up
Macauley seeking starting spot for rest of summer
MICHAEL Darragh Macauley proclaims himself to be "in as good knick as I've ever been."
Which, for a footballer known for both his hulking strength and an obsessive personal devotion to physical fitness all the year 'round, represents quite the prognosis.
Particularly so, given he didn't start Dublin's opening Championship match of summer against Longford two Sundays back, the first time that's happened since 2010.
"Look, I was back fully fit for that game," he says, though the subject of his fitness was, for much of spring, discussed in mostly worried tones around Dublin.
"I had a very difficult League campaign. I just never got it right, to be honest. There was niggle after niggle."
"Just tiny things. Nothing major at all. And they were hanging around.
"I had a small hamstring that kept me out for about 10 days with.
"A calf that went on for too long for February. But they're all behind me now. I'm going to just take the positives from it, that I'm fresher than I've ever been."
Which sounds like the type of line a footballer might use, even if he wasn't.
And Macauley admits to having used it.
"I gave a similar interview in March saying that. But I actually wasn't, in retrospect," he says now.
"I wasn't where I should have been. I'm happy now, going forward."
"I've been completely clear now for the last six to eight weeks. So I'm 100 per cent clear now. Feeling tip top at the moment."
So very simply, Macauley was left out against Longford in straight-up selection call.
Denis Bastick and Brian Fenton were the men in possession of Dublin jerseys numbered eight and nine from the League final and their performances combined with selection policy decreed that Macauley begin the summer with the juxtaposition of being both in the best shape of his life and on the Dublin bench.
"They've done a good job all year," he notes. "So that was always going to be the case."
The last time Dublin began their summer Macauley-less, he was this energetic and unorthodox tyro, yet to establish Pat Gilroy's midfield as his own personal fiefdom.
Or 2010, to be precise.
"Yeah, someone told me that. Hopefully it's the last.
"But we'll see now. It's going to be tough now. I don't have to tell you how tough competition is for places ahead of the summer.
"But we've needed that. People have been saying in midfield, in particular, that we've been a bit light. And I don't think that anyone can say that this year. We definitely have options.
"I've always been very competitive by nature," he continues.
"I always want to be starting but I don't think I had too much argument. The two lads have been playing super and deserve their spots in midfield so it's going to be a battle to get my place back.
"But I have myself in perfect knick at the moment. As good knick as I've ever been in, to be honest.
"So hopefully, I keep that going."
No gripes then.
"Jim has shown that he plays players by form. And that the lads aren't picked on reputation.
"That's all you really want from a manager. That if you're playing well, you're going to get the jersey.
"So look, I'm going to be getting opportunities now. We've played a few friendlies.
"We've played matches amongst ourselves.
"I'm going to get a chance to show if I'm worth a spot. It's up to me as to whether I take those chances."
By the time Macauley got on against Longford, the contest part of the afternoon had long since escaped.
"For myself and the lads coming on, we were very eager.
"Despite being how ever many points up, we had to put in a decent shift or we would never get any where near the starting 15 the next day.
"It's been said a million times but it's important that those subs have that hunger when they come on."
It was never Macauley's sole intention - easy though it may have been - to simply make himself look good to management,
"I think the team went out there to do a job and work together.
"That's an in built thing that we have, that the lads aren't selfish and that the lads are getting credited for not being selfish.
"So, it's just one those things. It didn't matter the scoreline. Lads came on were really giving it their all."
"I suppose we have to have our own standards as a team.
"That means on the training pitch in matches amongst ourselves or against other teams.
"So we have targets that we have to hit and we have to make sure we set our own bar and it doesn't matter who we play," Macayley concludes, "we have to set our own standards."