McCarthy on final push for glory with Eagles and Ireland
THE THOUGHT of getting to Wembley and joining that small and exclusive band of Irish-born players who have lifted a major trophy at the home of the English game is one of the aims for Dublin lad Paddy McCarthy, captain of Crystal Palace.
But even though age is not on his side -- McCarthy turns 29 later this year -- the centre-half admits that he has not yet given up hope of joining his old team-mates from the underage Ireland teams like Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, Stephen Kelly and Stephen Ward in the Ireland squad that's bound for Poland next summer.
Especially if he carries on his good form with his London club. Palace take on fellow Championship side Cardiff City tonight in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, and should the Eagles make it to the final they could face Manchester City, an intriguing prospect for McCarthy as that was the club where he served his apprenticeship in the game, spending five years on their books before further spells at Leicester City, Charlton and his current employers, Palace.
He's had good times and McCarthy is revelling in his status as club captain at Selhurst Park. However, his international career has stalled as he hasn't played for his country at any level since winning a 'B' cap in 2006, though he did come close as recently as 2009 when Giovanni Trapattoni had him on the bench for a friendly against South Africa. No caps, but he has yet to abandon hope. "I will never give up hope of playing for my country," says the Dubliner.
"As long as I am playing at a decent standard and feel fit, I will always have that hope. I think I am fitter than I ever was and playing the best football of my career.
"The Ireland squad does look a long way off at the moment but I will always have that hope of getting even one cap. I am very patriotic, I will be supporting the lads every step of the way in Poland next summer.
"I'm sure the FAI coaching staff have seen me enough times to make a decision and my face doesn't seem to fit so there's not a lot I can do expect keep playing as well as I can for my club.
"It would probably take a rake of injuries for me to get called into the squad now, so I know it's not likely but I can't hold any grudges against any of the managers.
"I've played a lot of games at this level and I feel comfortable. I was lucky to spend time at big clubs like Leicester and Charlton and I love it here at Palace," he says. "I've been in the Championship all that time but if we can push on and get into the play-offs, who knows? The dream is to get into the Premier League."
But before that there's the small matter of that Cup run, with only Cardiff standing between Palace and a League Cup final appearance.
"It would mean a lot to us to get to the final and maybe win the Carling Cup. We've had some tough games to get this far and it would be great to see us go all the way," says McCarthy.
"We have earned the right to play in the semi-final of what is still a major cup competition, and we're two games and one round away from a Wembley final, which would be fantastic for the club."
McCarthy was one of the Palace players who has been struck down by a mystery virus recently but he hopes to shrug that off to play tonight.