The Michael Darragh Macauley magic
Michael Darragh Macauley, hero of Dublin’s All-Ireland victory, credits the influence of his father and teachers – and his obsessive weight-watching – with his success on the pitch
Michael Darragh Macauley. “I’m intense on the field and very relaxed off it.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Michael Darragh Macauley and Mayo’s Andy Moran at the All-Ireland football final last Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Michael Darragh Macauley holding the the Sam Maguire cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
It is true that you could feel Croke Park shaking last Sunday. “More so in the semi-final. And there was the same feeling in 2011.Those last-minute thrillers. And against Mayo on Sunday. You can feel it shaking, even on the pitch.”
This is Michael Darragh Macauley, hero of the Dublin victors in the All-Ireland football final. This weekend, with the hurling final tomorrow, the country is wondering how many more last-minute thrillers it can take. The legends are pouring out of Croke Park.
Macauley didn’t score in last Sunday’s final; he has yet to score in a final. Nor did he play on with a broken foot. “It’s more bruising,” he says. “That’s just one of those stories that got legs.”
He isn’t that tall. “Six foot three,” he says. “On a good day.” He is drinking green tea, which he tried for the first time only a couple of weeks ago. “I’ve never had a cup of normal tea, or a cup of coffee, in my life.”
He helps me work the voice recorder on my phone. He helps a fellow student on crutches to retrieve something he had dropped on the floor. He is aware. At the end of the interview, which took place at a coffee bar on the Maynooth campus where he is studying to be a teacher, he clears the table.
This is another thing that surprises people about him, he says. “I’m intense on the field and very relaxed off it.” Later he says, “I’ve always been good-natured.” Even I know that there are opponents who might think this last part untrue. Macauley is what is called, in GAA terms, contact-friendly.
He’s 27, but he was a late starter, troubled by injuries, and had his first season only in 2010. Will he stop playing now? “I don’t know. The age profile gets lower all the time. The oldest person on our team, Denis Bastick, is 31.”
I’m having a chocolate, cranberry and Rice Krispie bar. Macauley is having . . . nothing. He has to watch his weight. “Everyone’s striving for perfection,” he says. He and his teammates are, like supermodels and jockeys, “obsessed by the weight”.
It’s not exactly Roy of the Rovers, is it?
When Macauley’s father, also Michael, was on the waiting list for a lung transplant, he had to lose weight, and so did Macauley, and so did his Aunt Anna (it is unclear who decided this about her), his father’s sister, who came in every day.
Macauley put a chart up on the fridge with their starting weights. He was doing the shopping, so he made sure he never bought biscuits. But Aunt Anna was, allegedly, bringing the biscuits in. Macauley would check her shopping bags and also find biscuits “hidden about the place”. Macauley is tough. His father lost 12kg.
In fact, Macauley seems to weigh a lot of people he’s fond of. “The day we moved into the house I weighed all my housemates.” It’s as if he wants to put everyone in training, for their own good.
We talk about having three names – personally, I blame Jimmy Barry-Murphy – but Macauley won’t be drawn. His mother called him Michael Darragh, and so did his father, and so do all his relatives.
It is the spelling of his surname that is more of an issue. His father, a GP practising in Ballyroan, in Rathfarnham in Co Dublin, but originally from Lettermacaward, in Co Donegal, once called Croke Park to make sure that Macauley was spelled correctly in team listings. Wherever you turn in Macauley’s career, his father’s enthusiasm is bubbling beneath it.