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Wednesday 20 June 2018

You can't say we won't be caught again - McCarthy

Dubs ace impressed by Carlow's scoring prowess

FOCUS: James McCarthy at AIB’s announcement of a five-year extension of their sponsorship which is Backing Club and County. Photo: Sportsfile
FOCUS: James McCarthy at AIB’s announcement of a five-year extension of their sponsorship which is Backing Club and County. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin might have kicked 4-25 in Portlaoise on Sunday in what was a record-equaling 22nd Leinster SFC victory in a row but easily the outstanding statistic of the GAA weekend just passed was Carlow's 2-14 from 16 shots in their strikingly comfortable victory over Kildare in Tullamore.

"That's ridiculous," agrees James McCarthy with a look of genuine amazement.

"Everyone has stats that they want to go after. But hitting no wides? I'd say it hasn't been done before?

"That shows you the level they're playing at."

McCarthy's admiration isn't confined to second-hand information from a match he didn't see either.

POWERHOUSE: James McCarthy in action for Dublin against Theo Smyth and Kevin Murphy of Wicklow on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
POWERHOUSE: James McCarthy in action for Dublin against Theo Smyth and Kevin Murphy of Wicklow on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

Last summer in Portlaoise, McCarthy played Carlow - then in an earlier passage of their rising - on the day made infamous by Diarmuid Connolly's brush with Ciarán Branagan and all that came from it.

"That's what struck me about them. They're big, physical, strong," McCarthy recalls.

"If you went into them, you were getting a good clip. They have big, strong men around the park. They're a tough team to play against, so I'm not surprised.

"They seem to have huge momentum and there seems to be a huge buzz around the county. So they're going to give any team a go now."

"You saw some of the scores Broderick was kicking there," McCarthy went on.

Strong

"They were as good as anyone. He has a lovely left foot on him. He's a big guy as well. Very strong. Can win his own ball.

SHOCK: Carlow players celebrate victory over Kildare. Photo: Sportsfile
SHOCK: Carlow players celebrate victory over Kildare. Photo: Sportsfile

"There just seems to be a great buzz around them at the moment. They have momentum, so they're going to be a hard team to play."

One more win for both Dublin and Carlow and they'll meet in this year's Leinster SFC final, an unlikely pairing made combination made possible by Turlough O'Brien's team's rapid improvement and the collective a byss the rest of the province seems to have fallen into.

Dublin meanwhile, are setting records they're not even aware of.

Victory over Longford in two week's time will break the record for the number of consecutive victories in the Leinster SFC, a run set by Dublin between 1974 and 1980, another milestone at which McCarthy will pass his famous father, John.

Assuming - as most do - they win this year's Leinster title meanwhile, Dublin will make it eight in succession - matching the highest number of provincial crowns won in a row, a feat managed by Kerry between 1975 and 1982, a team they're rapidly catching in terms of scale of achievement.

"When I started off, I never thought that would happen," McCarthy stresses.

"The place we were coming from was a completely different place. Meath put five goals past us there.

"And that's only a few years ago. It's mad how we've gone from strength to strength."

The day Meath scored five goals on Stephen Cluxton, McCarthy was on the Dublin bench, yet to be added to Pat Gilroy fresh-faced defence.

"I was sitting in the stand, dying to get out," he recalls.

"I was togged out. I just remember thinking I was mad to get on."

"Yeah, it's mad. It's a testament to Pat. I suppose he just stuck…everyone else wanted half the team to be kicked out and dropped.

"But no harm having days like that to steel you, I suppose. It forces you to look at your game, to work hard on your game. And to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Not that he'd be inclined to take that for granted.

Dublin's dominance of Leinster might be reflective of their depth of quality but it is also testament to their ability not to look too far forward.

The strength of Jim Gavin's team selection on Sunday against a team that finished bottom of Division 4 being both the perfect and most recent example of this collective state of mind.

As McCarthy insists: "You don't experiment. You earn your jersey and you work hard for it and to hold on to it as well."

"Never say never," he adds.

"Of course it could happen again. Donegal caught us a couple of years ago as well. We got caught bad that day. So you always have to be on your toes and prepare well.

"You have to make sure you're looking at all eventualities.

"We have a lot of experience. But you can't say it'll never happen again."

For what it was worth on Sunday, Dublin looked lean and sharp.

They have been commended for their ability to win League matches in February, in some cases just over a week after returning from a team holiday yet McCarthy says that it is the conditioning of their skills, rather than their bodies, that Jim Gavin gives priority.

"We put massive work on our skills," he states.

"You can laugh at that but it's very important having your basic fundamentals right.

"So we do a lot of work on our catching, our kicking, our shooting. It sounds simple but it is simple. We put huge emphasis on that.

"Getting the basics right. That means everyone is sharp in training and matches. It's just the skills of the game.

"Lads are well conditioned. It's a long season.

"And lads are pushing hard, biting at the bit.

" So you can't slack off or you'll be under pressure for your position."

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