James McCarthy: 'Nobody is forced to play'
By John Harrington
Like most other people, Dublin footballer James McCarthy is keeping an eye on the daily tally of Covid-19 infections in the country.
The numbers have gone in the wrong direction in recent times, but he’s no less resolute in his determination to do all he can to help Dublin win a sixth All-Ireland title in a row.
The way he sees it, any risk of playing Gaelic Football at the moment is outweighed by the benefits of doing so.
“There is a bit of worry there, but it’s up to individuals to weigh up how they feel about it,” says McCarthy. “Nobody is forced to play. Nobody is forced to go in.
“You’re going to make the call yourself if you feel it’s the right thing to do or not. It’s the health side to it as well, the mental side to it as well, playing sport, it gives everyone a lift.
“I know myself personally, I’d miss it terribly if I didn’t have it. And I completely understand guys who don’t feel it’s right for them. They have to make those calls.
“I watched Novak Djokovic and Nadal playing last Sunday for three hours. It’s great watching them go toe-to-toe. If there was nothing on every weekend, it would be a sad world to live in. It’s up to the individual to make that call.”
McCarthy admits there’s still a spring in his step after helping his club Ballymun Kickhams win the Dublin Senior Football Championship.
By now, he’s won it all and then some. That was his second Dublin senior club championship Ballymun, while with Dublin he has now accumulated seven All-Ireland titles, nine Leinster Championships, and five Allianz Football Leagues.
Despite all he has achieved, he still takes to the pitch with the same ravenous appetite for battle that has always been his calling-card.
Where does that sort of hard-wired motivation come from?
“I just love playing football and I love competing,” says McCarthy “I love seeing as the years go by, can I still play at a high level?
“Can I still take on everyone I play against and play with? I’m a very competitive person, so that keeps me going really.
“We’ve obviously been successful. The club was brilliant a few weeks ago. That was refreshing and that was exciting just to go out, train and not worry too much about meetings and tactics and that type of stuff.
“Just the competitive nature in myself, probably kicking on a bit as well, can I still play at the high level? Scratch that itch, and see if I can perform at a high level. That’s what keeps me going.”
Long-time Dublin team-mates Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, Darren Daly, and Eoghan O’Gara recently announced their retirement from the game while Jack McCaffrey has opted out for this year too at the very least.
McCarthy is still as integral a part of the Dublin team as ever, though, and shows little sign of slowing down any time soon.
It’s no surprise then to hear he has not given any thought to the day he might hang up his own inter-county boots.
“Thankfully those doubts haven’t crept into my mind yet,” says MccArthy. “But the day I get skinned for legs or pace around the pitch, that’s the day you start looking at yourself.
“Thankfully I haven’t had too many bad days like that. Once you’re enjoying it, you get the buzz going to training and the buzz playing matches, why not keep going as long as you can? You’ll be finished long enough, so that’s my attitude to it.”
If he can win an eight All-Ireland medal this year he’ll equal the record of the most ever won by a player.
That sort of individual glory isn’t what drives him though.
"No, not really but it would be great to win another one!
"Look, absolutely, the more you win the better but no, I don't particularly worry about it, to be honest with you.
"It might be in a couple more years time but it would be great to get another one, but we'll see how we get on over the next couple of years.
"It's business as usual, you try to win what's in front of you and win everything that you can, that's how we've approached it as a team and it's served us well the last few years.”
Dublin GAA and main sponsor AIG Insurance officially unveiled their new O’Neill’s playing kit yesterday at the home of Dublin GAA Parnell Park. The kit will be worn by all 4 codes from underage up to senior and masters level. The Dublin GAA jersey is available to purchase from today exclusively from Intersport Elverys for the month of October both online at www.elverys.ie and in stores nationwide.