AS PREPARATIONS FOR an All-Ireland championship campaign go, Rory O’Carroll’s strayed from the conventional last year.
Instead of immersing himself in the grind of O’Byrne Cup and National League football in the early months of 2011, the Kilmacud Crokes defender packed himself off to France. He decamped to Gien, a small town that skirts the Loire river and lies about 50 miles east of the city of Orleans.
O’Carroll, an Under Armour ambassador, was in the midst of an Arts degree in UCD, with history and French his core subjects, but he swapped life on the Belfield campus to teach English in the small French town.
O’Carroll kept himself in shape over there, even flying home for an All-Ireland club semi-final showdown with Crossmaglen Rangers in February, and returned in May to anchor a season that culminated in Dublin lifting Sam Maguire in September. Still this year he is more settled and entering Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final is pleased with the levels of fitness he has scaled.
“Training with the lads the whole time gives you that reassurance,” O’Carroll told TheScore.ie. “When I was back in France, I didn’t have that peace of mind. I was just hoping the fitness was there and wasn’t sure until I came home whether it was. Training with a squad makes it a lot better and you’re more assured of yourself.”
O’Carroll is firmly immersed in Dublin’s setup now and relished their recent sojourn in Dingle. They escaped life in the capital after their All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Laois and headed to the south-west. There was no grueling training camps, instead it was an opportunity to regain focus by popping to the cinema or heading to the beach.
O’Carroll believes they need that level of concentration given the warning that next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final opponents Mayo issued when the teams met earlier this year in the league.
“The night of the fog, the game was called off. But they thoroughly deserved their win the second day as they absolutely hammered us. Unless we pull out a top-drawer performance, we’re in trouble. Mayo could be more capable of reproducing that display in the championship and producing a comprehensive victory.
“We showed good composure in beating Laois in the quarter-final as we were getting nervous in the last few minutes of that game. We knew it was going to be a very tough clash as they’re a massively physical team. They get a lot of numbers back which makes them twice as hard to break down. But we were prepared for that.”
In Dublin’s favor as well is the familiarity that exists between O’Carroll and his defensive colleagues. O’Carroll is club mates of Cian O’Sullivan and Kevin Nolan, with that trio featuring on the Dublin U21 team that just fell short in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, while James McCarthy was on board with O’Carroll when Dublin got the better of Donegal in the All-Ireland U21 final in 2010.
“I’ve been playing with Cian and Kevin since I was 14,” reveals O’Carroll. “It’s good to have them around at any time. But at it this stage doesn’t matter who’s there, we’re ‘ll very familiar with each other and that helps.”
Dublin full back and Under Armour Ambassador Rory O’Carroll was joined in Parnell Park by fellow Dublin stars James McCarthy and Mick Fitzsimons to help launch Under Armour’s Charged Cotton Storm range in Ireland. Under Armour is the official baselayer supplier to the Dublin football team and they announced today that the Charged Cotton Storm range will be available in Life Style Sports, Elverys Sports and independent retailers nationwide.