“IT JUST OPENED up for me. I kept going and closed my eyes!”
James McCarthy isn’t one to embellish his moment of glory.
The goal in last year’s Leinster final swung the game away from Wexford and turned out to be the difference between the sides when the final whistle came 15 minutes later.
Who knows how 2011 might have turned out had McCarthy sliced wide or had Anthony Masterson got a full hand to the ball and batted it away. A split-second was not enough to react and reach the half-back’s howitzer. Momentum was firmly in Dublin’s favour.
Since then, however, they’ve come grounding to a halt again. The league campaign brought little sign of the All Ireland pedigree, as McCarhy admits:
“We had a pretty shaky League, a poor League and we had six or seven weeks after it and got a lot of hard work done. I think we were in a good place going into that (Louth) game, and we’re happy enough with the way we played.”
The secret, says the 23-year-old all star, is work-rate. In the wake of Louth’s 2-22 to 0-12 demolishing at the hands of Dublin, Wee County boss, Peter Fitzpatrick hailed the Dubs as “a machine”.
“(After the league) we just talked about our work rate and talked about how much we need it.” says McCarthy. “Without that, we were a poor team this year and so many teams pipped us in the league.
“We said we had to get back to our foundation, which is our work rate, and to bring our intensity up. The rest would follow after.”
That mantra will go double against the Model County who have managed to keep astride of Dublin in recent years.
“If you look at the last two years…if we’re being honest, they probably should have beaten us. We got a very lucky goal last year that brought us back into it. Two years ago, I think they went seven or eight points up against us and probably should have beaten us that day as well.
“We’re under no illusions here, it’s going to be a very tough game – especially because Wexford have had two very tough games against Longford. In a way, they might be a bit more battle-hardened.”
YouTube credit: VicMackey
McCarthy points to Meath’s five-goal salvo in the 2010 semi-final as proof of how a dip in intensity can derail a season. There is a sense of assured composure and maturity from McCarthy. A trait he perhaps owes to the close tutelage of his father, John, who can point to his three All-Ireland medals whenever a point needs to be proved.
“Starting off he used to wreck my head in a way. He’s laid off a bit now! We might go for a walk before a game and have a chat. He always keeps me on my toes. He has been always great growing up, asking for advice. He’s been a big help to me.
“He’s been there and done that as well.”
Now it’s the younger McCarthy out to do it all over again against Wexford.