'Real buzz in training'
McCarthy says O'Neill and Keane have players fired up and eyeing big prizes
GIVEN that he wasn't even born when Ireland played at the World Cup finals for the first time in 1990, James McCarthy still has a thing or two to learn about how the mood of the nation can react to major events in football.
McCarthy believes that, even after only a few days of the new Ireland management team, there is a renewed spirit in the camp – buzz is quite literally McCarthy's buzzword for the new era under Martin O'Neill.
Despite spending the early part of his career in Scotland, McCarthy had not crossed paths with O'Neill or Keane (he broke on to the scene with Hamilton in 2006 after Keane had retired following his spell with Celtic), but the 23-year-old has already been enthused by the duo.
"Obviously, we were gutted not to qualify, but Roy and Martin have come in and got us going again. There's a real buzz around the place. Everyone's enjoying training and we want to try and qualify for a major tournament," says McCarthy, hoping to get into the XI for tomorrow's game at home to Latvia.
"The two friendlies coming up, they're big games, even though they're just friendlies. I think we'll take them seriously, (we) want to try and get wins on the board.
"The new management will want to stamp their authority and get wins under their belt. It's always good to see that, especially going into a friendly.
"Martin has brought a buzz about the place to be honest. Training has been very good, the standard has been very good and we're enjoying it.
"Obviously Roy has worked in the Premier League. He's a top boss and he's really good. The standard's been really good and Roy's been putting sessions out as well, which has been good.
"He is a massive influence. It's only two days in but it's always good when someone who's such a great footballing hero gives you tips. It's a massive bonus."
As a midfielder, it's no wonder that McCarthy models himself on the man who is now Ireland's No 2.
"His passing, everything," says the Everton man when asked about Keane.
"He was just an all-round midfielder. I'll pick up as many things as I can from him.
"He was a massive player and anything I can learn from him, I'll be delighted to take it on board. I want to get on the ball and I want to pass the ball and make tackles here and there. But it's a long way from comparing myself to Roy Keane to be honest. Obviously I want get on the ball and pass the ball.
"Like today, we had a 11 v 11 game and he was talking to you – run here, get on the ball, just that type of stuff. Every little helps. And I think he's right down to earth. He's spoken to each and every one of us. It's good to have him on board."
Having played under Giovanni Trapattoni and also under Noel King last month, this is a fresh start again for McCarthy, who turned 23 on Tuesday.
"Obviously you want to get as many caps as you can and play as good as you can in each and every game. Obviously I'm learning. It was my birthday on Tuesday, so I'm getting a bit old, I'm getting on. As I say, if I can keep picking things up from the boss, Martin, and Roy, hopefully I can do well."
One downside for this international trip is the enforced absence of McCarthy's close pal and teammate, Darron Gibson, sidelined with the knee injury he picked up against Kazakhstan last month.
"I'm gutted for Gibbo. He was just getting back fit. You could see even in the Germany game the passes he was playing, he was getting his fitness back and obviously training with him on a day-to-day basis, you can see what a player he is. I was gutted on the night.
"He's had his operation, he's looking well, he's working hard and I think we're trying to get him back just before the end of the season hopefully, but if not, for the start of next season he'll be fit. Everything went well with the operation."