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'Magic Mike' is back to take on France


Ireland second row Mike McCarthy. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Ireland second row Mike McCarthy. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE


Ireland second row Mike McCarthy. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER-BOUND Mike McCarthy and Ulster's Dan Tuohy have at least two things in common. They are both second rows that started out as wingers.

McCarthy was playing the game from a wide-angle view when a growth spurt set in at the famous English rugby nursery Sedburgh College to take him closer to the action, first as a blindside at London Wasps.

There, the teenager was thrown into competition with the tackle-tank Joe Worsley and the combustible Paul Volley beside Lawrence Dallaglio in the back row.

"I was there for three years. Wasps wanted me to stay. But, I thought I was at the age where I needed to get game time under my belt. It was the right thing to do. Definitely," he said.

There followed one season at Connacht, three at Newcastle and a return to The West for the last six seasons. He has prospered under Michael Bradley and Eric Elwood.

And shown loyalty too. McCarthy, the former England U21 international, made his debut for Ireland against Scotland before the World Cup last season.

He won three more caps, two as a replacement in the Six Nations against the Scots again and England on that inauspicious day at Twickenham when the Irish scrum was dismantled.

The London-born lock was seen as the natural successor to Donncha O'Callaghan as long as he could complete a few alterations to his game, one being to add muscle and bulk to a 6'4" frame.

"To play on the tight-head side I had to put a couple of kilos on. I could do with another couple as long as I can carry it," he said.

There is no problem with finding the right calorie content at Ireland's training camp out at Carton House, near Maynooth.

"There is all this amazing food here. You could call it camp belly," he laughed. "If you're playing 80 minutes a week, you really need to fuel up and keep that weight on. The chicken fajitas are my favourite."

How many of those does he get through? "Not as many as (Mike) Rossy."

There is a serious side to the business of loading up on calories and the protein from succulent steaks. It is to aid muscle-based weight gain at the gym.



"You are going to be scrummaging a bit longer on the tight-head side. When you come up, you are that small bit more tired than you are from scrummaging on the left hand side.

"It is more of a scrummaging role. You are doing it longer.

"When I was playing six at Newcastle, I think I was reasonably good in the wider channels. I had to put in more work on my game in the tight."

This season, McCarthy has shown progression in his game time for Ireland, starting against South Africa and Argentina in November and Wales and England in the Six Nations.

Then, a troublesome medial ligament knee injury set in. It looked like he had seen the last of this Six Nations. He was even cited as "50-50" last week by the Irish management, along with Donnacha Ryan and his shoulder issue.

"I am 100 per cent. It has healed up very quickly. I have no problems. I thought I may have missed a few more games or the rest of The Championship," said McCarthy.

"I was, maybe, doubtful last week. I had to get through the three sessions on Friday, yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday). There have been no problems. It is all good.

"I was a bit gutted to miss the Scotland game and really felt for the boys for the amount of opportunities they created. I could see the frustration."

Now, it is time for McCarthy to take it out on France.