James McCarthy: 'We always go for it'
By John Harrington
Dublin football star James McCarthy believes their rivals will have to go on the attack if they want to knock the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions from their throne.
Mayo were self-confident enough to go man-for-man against Dublin and were very nearly rewarded for that bravery in Sunday’s All-Ireland Final.
But more often than not opposition teams take the approach Tyrone did in the All-Ireland semi-final by packing their defence and trying to hit Dublin on the counter attack.
McCarthy believes that tactic is a futile one though because it makes it next to impossible to score a winning total against a team as good as this Dublin one.
“I think so,” said McCarthy. “A defensive system will get you to a certain level but you’ve got to throw it off at some stage and have a go at it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to score in games and put up the points.
“If you think you are going to win a game with 11, 12 or 13 scores, I don’t think it is going to happen at that level.
“I’m only playing seven years but it has changed an awful lot from when I started. It was man to man really when I started but it has got a lot more tactical the last few years.
“That’s the challenge as well. I don’t think you need 14 men behind the ball.
“I think the views of our team, we always go for it, win or lose at the end, we always say we are going to cut loose first.
“I hate the feeling, it’s happened me over the years, coming off the pitch when you think you should have done that or you should have done this, it’s a horrible feeling.”
In Sunday’s Final we regularly saw the unusual sight of all three of Dublin’s full-back line and centre-back Cian O’Sullivan having to man-mark a Mayo forward because the Connacht side backed themselves to leave players high up the pitch.
They took the game to Dublin, and McCarthy rated the contest as “a step up” on anything he had every experienced previously playing for Dublin.
Yesterday in the team hotel he admitted he was “wrecked” and had a long list of physical ailments that extended to calf, hip, shoulder, and eye injuries.
“Yeah, they hit us there with everything in the first half and we were on the back foot,” he said. “We were hanging in there, to be honest with you.
“They're just hugely physical games, not just hitting-wise, but running-wise. Everything's notched up.
“They seem to raise their game to a different level when they're playing us each year, I don't know what it is exactly.
“I was just really happy we pulled it out of the bag. We didn't play that well again, but I suppose our fitness pulled us through again.
“We know what's coming (with Mayo). We know it's going to be a very hard and physical game, I suppose it takes you a few minutes to get used to that pitch again.
“We probably had it easy all summer but you don't be long about finding out what the level is you have to get up to.”
Two weeks before the All-Ireland Final Dublin’s ‘B’ team beat their ‘A’ team in a hotly contested training match and McCarthy believes that helped get them ready for the intensity Mayo brought to the All-Ireland Final.
"They gave us a good rattle,” he said. “They got well stuck into us. I suppose you tip the hat to the guys, they're trying to prepare us for what is coming. There was plenty of needle.
"A spiky enough game, if you like. Yeah, they clipped us by a point.
“You're in a foul humour for a few days after. You're kind of thick about it. But it does, it helps you to prepare for it. Preparation is massive at this level."
McCarthy also felt that, when it came to the crunch in the final 10 minutes of the match, the chance to create history by winning a third All-Ireland in a row helped drive Dublin on.
“Of course it’s there, you can’t hide away from it,” he said. “You’ve got to accept what’s on the line. The sooner you do that I think the better place you’ll be in mentally to try and take it on. Of course it was a motivating factor, you’d be lying if you didn’t say it was.
“We’re at that stage at the moment where we want to be the best team. We have that hunger as well, I think people maybe underestimate our bit of bite.
“I suppose our biggest strength, without sounding cliched about it, is that we're a very tight group who came through those tough losses earlier on.
“Obviously we had a very tough loss in the League Final this year, that was very hard to take. It helps when you're together through them tougher time. I suppose our biggest strength is that different guys can step up at different times.
“I don't think it's by chance we win these games by a point. We've won too many of them at this stage to call it luck.”