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I'd play in front of just Dessie and his dog

Macauley using time to recover ahead of a unique championship campaign

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EAGER: All-Ireland winning Dublin and Ballyboden St
Enda’s footballer Michael Darragh Macauley ahead of AIB’s The Toughest Summer, a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games. Pic: Sportsfile

EAGER: All-Ireland winning Dublin and Ballyboden St Enda’s footballer Michael Darragh Macauley ahead of AIB’s The Toughest Summer, a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

EAGER: All-Ireland winning Dublin and Ballyboden St Enda’s footballer Michael Darragh Macauley ahead of AIB’s The Toughest Summer, a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games. Pic: Sportsfile

For Michael Darragh Macauley, it's a "no-brainer." The benefits of playing the championship are such, he reckons, that everyone involved should do what they mus to get it up and running.

The Dublin star accepts that it won't be straight-forward. The Covid pandemic means things are rarely simple these days and there will be hurdles to overcome.

But Macauley is adamant. If that means playing without supporters, Macauley reckons that it's better than not playing at all. And if money is an issue, then maybe they could find a way to spend less on the preparation of squads.

In any case, the 2013 Footballer of the Year wants to be playing championship football this year, whether that be in front of a heaving Croke Park or just one man and his dog.

"I think it's a no-brainer, that we will just play," said the Ballyboden St Enda's man.

Novelty

"Obviously I want to be out there in front of 80,000 people. Barring that, I want to be there in front of 40,000 people. Barring that, 20,000.

"Give me 200 people, it will be a novelty. But if that has to be zero, just Dessie Farrell and his dog, that's what it is.

"From a player's point of view, I haven't come across anyone who wants it any other way. Lads are happy to play, everyone I know, club and county have put in a good shift over the last while. Everyone was doing their 5ks and HIIT sessions.

"Everyone was in the same boat in the country, not just intercounty athletes and it is nice to have a little endgame in sight.

Everyone I have talked to just wants to play ball, be it in front of just one man and his dog, or 80,000 people."

There's widespread acceptance that finance and the preparation of inter county teams will be an issue for almost every county and Croke Park have already pledged to support boards in that regard.

Dublin will likely be more insulated than most from that but Maculey reckons there would be a willingness from players to prepare on "a lower scale" to what they are used to get the games up and running.

"I have no idea how the finances of any county board work, to be honest with you. I am sure Covid aside, if it has to be done, on a more voluntary basis, if it has to be done to a lower scale, I think it will happen. All things going well. I can't (see) financials, and maybe that's me being ignorant, but I can't see it getting in the way."

"I don't know how many times people have asked me on the street thinking I've an insight into what's going on. 'Are we going to have a championship this year?' 'Please god tell me we'l have a championship'. I know anecdotally how much it means and I know what it means to my mates who will be acting the maggot on Hill 16. I know from speaking to people how much it is missed. It's no secret. It'll give a great boost if we can get it up (and running) in any form."

The Covid 19 pandemic gave Macauley some breathing space in terms of his recovery from a groin injury. Macauley required surgery shortly after Ballyboden lost their All-Ireland club SFC semi-final to Kilcoo and was aiming to return in time for this year's championship. It's not the ideal starting point for Maculey who has yet to be available to Dessie Farrell and unlike a lot of the squad, hasn't played under him at age grade for Dublin.

"I was probably aiming (to be back) for the first round of the championship anyway, possibly the end of the league depending on how it went so it actually fell nicely for me to be honest.

"I suppose when you have an injury and you are trying to comeback you are always very eager and you are always trying to make that session before you should make that session so it was nice to have no huge goals in front of my face.

"The whole lockdown time for me was like an extended rehab time for me so it worked out very nicely."

Dublin return to action with a Croke Park date against Meath in the league before facing Westmeath in the championship on the weekend of November 7/8.

And while Dublin made history last year with their fifth All-Ireland in a row, Macauley doesn't believe there will be any letting up from his team mates.

"David Hickey. He's an unbelievable character. But he was kind of asking… not asking, but he was suggesting how would a team like ours motivate themselves and his suggestion was that everything has to be fun.

"Everyone has to be enjoying it and I think that's going to be huge for the lads. I've no doubt the lads will train their ass off, that happens without anyone having to ask them to do that.

"But I think if there's a sense of fun around the dressing room this year, that'll be huge and I think as soon as that goes, I've no interest in being there as well.

"So I think, not that we have a dressing room at the moment, but as long as people are still enjoying it when we get back I think that'll be a huge thing."