Friday 21 October 2016

Mike is revved up to tackle Toulon

'Old Banger' McCarthy out to make 300th game his best

Leinster's Mike McCarthy will make his 300th club appearance against Toulon this Saturday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Mike McCarthy will make his 300th club appearance against Toulon this Saturday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Mike McCarthy would have you believe he is an old Fiat on a road jammed with Ferraris.

It can seem that way when Duane Vermeulen, Steffon Armitage, Manu Samoa and a host of high-end motors are coming against you on what must feel like a one-way street.

The 34-year-old second row is in line to make his 300th club appearance in a career that has taken in Wasps, where he made his debut against Sale Sharks in 2002, Connacht, who he rejoined from Newcastle and at Leinster where he is into his third season.

"Yeah, when we were going to be playing Glasgow, I was sitting beside Josh van der Flier, who is at the start of his journey.

"So I'm quite far into my journey, I suppose. It seems like a lot of games.

"I suppose, if I was a car I'd be an old banger," he said humorously.

Fair enough, McCarthy has been on the road for longer than most.

This will mark the Sedburgh-educated lock's 60th cap for Leinster

In fact, he just missed out on the glory years, arriving in the summer of 2013.

The only silverware he has to show for his commitment to the cause is the 2014 PRO12 title.

This is no longer about Leinster's pursuit of their fourth European Cup.

It is about the catapult effect Saturday can give them for the months, maybe even the years in front of them.


To get it right, they have to correct what went wrong in Toulon.

Leinster did a lot of things well in the first half at Stade Felix Mayol.

It all came apart from there by getting on the wrong side of Nigel Owens at the ruck.

"I think with regards to the breakdown we have to react to the ball carrier better, win the space," he said.

"They're massive men and if they get into the breakdown before you're there, you're not going to shift them.

"They're big heavy guys but we've looked at it in training, reacting quicker to the ball carrier, body height, all those kind of things."

When Toulon's immovable objects made life uncomfortable, Leinster resorted to pushing the borders.

That is where Owens met them to hand out nine penalties at the breakdown and the three yellow cards that flowed from the accumulation of damage done.

"We just gave away far too many penalties and it's a hard ask playing away at Toulon and giving away all those penalties," he said.

"Discipline-wise we certainly got on the wrong side of the referee."

The eternal optimist inside McCarthy will never give up on the prospect of scalping the most dominant force in European rugby.

"They're very impressive, aren't they?," he said.

"It's like the World XV. I can't speak more highly of them. They're a great side.

"Come the game, playing in front of our supporters at home, we'll be absolutely buzzing and excited to get out there," he insisted.

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