Mac on message as Dubs gear up for Wee odyssey
'In-a-rows' not up for debate
By universal consensus, James McCarthy is one hell of a defender - when he isn't playing midfield.
Yesterday we also discovered that he won't be conceding an inch when discussing Dublin's quest for five-in-a-row.
Speaking at AIB's senior football championship launch, the six-time All-Ireland winner reminded his audience - if they needed reminding - that Dublin don't talk about "in-a-rows".
Here's another topic not to be discussed within dictaphone range: Diarmuid Connolly.
In response to a gentle hand-grenade, on whether Marino's man of mystery had reappeared at Dublin training yet, McCarthy replied with a firm: "Ask Jim that now."
While some of his media inquisitors joked about putting a call straight through to Jim Gavin, it was clear that McCarthy would not be adding oxygen to this long-running saga.
Next question! Have Dublin as a group addressed five-in-a-row, that elephant in the room that promises to dominate all football discourse over the coming weeks and months?
"From our perspective we never actually ever talk about in-a-row and all that kind of stuff. We take every year as you can ... league first, then championship. Same thing this year.
"All our focus is on the first game. Look, people are going to say it to you. Everyone knows it's out there, people are going to wish you well, and that's the perspective I take from it. It doesn't add any extra pressure or any of that."
For McCarthy, there is relief in the knowledge that the identity of Dublin's first opponent has now been revealed. Louth's comeback victory over Wexford on Sunday has teed a first SFC showdown between the east coast neighbours since 2012, when they also met at the Leinster quarter-final stage.
The Ballymun man played at wing-back as Dublin, in their last season under Pat Gilroy, cruised to a 16-point victory.
"It's tough, the first two weeks you don't know who you are playing," he mused. "At least you have a focus now and have two weeks to build into the game and get ready for it.
"I didn't see much of the (Louth/Wexford) game but they got a good win and they had a good league campaign, narrowly missed out on promotion (from Division 3)."
There's another coincidental link between this season and 2012: it was the last time Dublin lost three or four league games until the spring campaign just gone. There was no Sam seven years ago, not that McCarthy is pressing any panic buttons over their spring form.
"It was a mixed bag from us really, mixed the good and the bad," he acknowledged. "But it was great in other ways - we had seven games, close games all of them, and a few new guys blooded in and lads getting game-time and back to speed ... but it was disappointing we didn't get the chance to defend our title.
"You learn from [defeats] as much as you can, but we go out to win every game. We always have the last couple of years and it served us really well, and it was no different this year. It just didn't work out."
A cause for concern?
"Absolutely not," he replied. "We broke up after the league, went back to the clubs and had a break, and now we are back working hard to get ready for the Leinster championship."
Losing to Tyrone in Croke Park was viewed, at the time, as Dublin's most significant league reversal of recent times.
"It's not a worry but it was a huge disappointment," McCarthy clarified. "We were in a position where we were a man up and should have done better.
"But we took great learnings from that game; gives you ideas of the challenges teams will throw at us as well they deserved to beat us that day and we have no complaints about it. We have to take what we can and power on."
Powering on: an apt description of Dublin's journey to the last four All-Irelands. Which brings is, in a roundabout way, back to five-in-a-row. Did McCarthy watch 'Players of the Faithful', the RTE documentary aired over Christmas about the Offaly team that famously stopped Kerry in 1982?
"My mother is an Offaly woman … I watched it, yeah, it was good. I'd have a vested interest with my mother," he confirmed.
But he wasn't looking for any pointers or warning signs.
"I enjoy the history of the game, I enjoy programmes like that, I've watched a good few sports documentaries. I don't know about taking anything out of it. The summer is the summer and the games are the games."