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
“But with the transplant there’s a strong light at the end of the tunnel, if you just ride the train out. I thought our problems were over.”
Macauley slept many nights on the floor of the Mater heart-and-lung unit, waiting for his father’s transplant to come through.
During his father’s illness, he says, “He was nearly more obsessed with my career than he was with his own health. His patients will tell you that. They got a running commentary on my life, and maybe a check-up if they were lucky.”
In a strange way, despite all the focus and the discipline to train “all the time”, Macauley doesn’t seem like a footballer. “Most of the lads I hang around with, not a lot of them play football at all. They’ve been brought in by me playing.”
He has good support from his sister and his family. He’s been with his girlfriend, Rosie Cooney, for a year.
Lateness an advantage
In some ways his late entry into football may have been an advantage. “I had a couple of summers in America, went to Thailand. The other lads who are so good, they’ve been fast-tracked since they were young. They’d be lucky to get two weeks in Spain.”
He envies his friends who are travelling now. “That’s one of the toughest things about football. We left college in 2008, the start of the recession, so they went away immediately. Some of them are beginning to crawl home.”
Now he is famous, and this brings strange experiences. “The other day a girl came up to me in Dundrum shopping centre and she’d been a friend of my mother’s in Sligo. She was rushing off; she didn’t want to take up my time. But I would have loved to talk to her, because, you know, the stories fade. And she’d known my grandfather as well. I would have loved to talk to her.”
Losing his parents, he thinks, has given him a sense of perspective and a desire to “just try and get on with life. It is tough. Part of me does wonder what I would be like if Mum was around. Part of me does ponder how I would have turned out.”
He never seems to have doubted the significance of football, even when – or particularly when – his father was dying. “We didn’t think he’d make it out of 2011. I had a gut feeling. I knew I had to win in 2011, and I did.”
In fact, his father did not die until November 2012. In January Macauley was glad to throw himself into his teacher training, and his football training. “I go up and visit the grave before matches now, to get a few words of wisdom.”