Neither Dublin nor Macauley likely to rest on their laurels
Nominee for GAA/GPA Player of the Year already looking forward to the bid to win back-to-back All-Ireland titles
After waiting 16 years to finally bring Sam Maguire back to the capital, Dublin’s second successful All-Ireland campaign in three years, culminating in September’s win over Mayo, has placed the spotlight firmly on Jim Gavin’s charges.
Pivotal to the two wins in both 2011 and 2013 has been the influence that Michael Darragh Macauley has exerted on the Dubs and his unique style and drive has been recognised as instrumental in the new-found success of the Sky Blues.
Despite only making his intercounty debut less than four years ago, Macauley has quickly established himself as one of the team’s leaders with that role ever more relevant given the youthful make-up of the Dublin panel.
“With all the new lads that have come into the squad this year, I suppose I have found myself in a more senior role,” he said.
“I think it is important that the lads that have been around for a few years can assist the newer panellists and offer experience and guidance when it is required.
“I’m not sure how much value I am to the younger players but being a mentor of sorts is something I enjoy and I hope I can pass on some help as to what is expected once you enter a senior set-up like ours.
“I needed lads to mentor me when I first arrived on the scene, both on and off the pitch, and it can be a tough atmosphere to suddenly find yourself in when players are already established within the panel.
“Tomás Quinn and a few others played that role when I first joined the panel and I’m very grateful to the help they gave me so it’s only natural that I can hopefully pass on some of that experience to the less senior players,” said Macauley, speaking at the launch of Parcel Motel’s send and return service.
Of course, the maturity shown by the likes of Paul Mannion, Ciarán Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey has possibly made Macauley’s job slightly easier in that regard and the comfort with which they have assimilated into the panel is a source of huge admiration to the Ballyboden St Enda’s clubman.
“When these guys come up through the system, they are already ready for senior football as a consequence of their progression through the development panels.
“I would have doubted that they were ready for it but they are both physically and mentally developed for the rigours and demands that playing at this level involves and that is a testament to the structures and systems that are in place in the county, and of course to their own maturity,” he said.
And Macauley’s respect and admiration for manager manager Jim Gavin not slow to come to the surface.
The coveted trio of National League, Leinster championship and All-Ireland championship winners medals that Macauley garnered this year can be partly attributed to his manager’s scrupulous attention to detail, according to the 2011 All-Star.
“A new management team generally likes to put their own stamp on things and Jim did exactly that. He is very much his own man but is highly modest about how he goes about his business and the importance of his presence within the set-up.
“He deserves all the credit he gets given how difficult managing any intercounty team is, especially one with the profile that Dublin has.
“It may sound like a cliché as this stage but he really leaves no stone unturned.
“And considering the fine lines that separate success and failure at the highest level, that focus on the more peripheral issues definitely proved crucial for us this year,” added the nominee for GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year.
The difficulty in recording back-to-back All-Ireland victories has been well documented yet Dublin look well-equipped to challenge the statistical anomaly that has seen just Cork and Kerry manage that feat over the past 20 years.
Hunger could well become an issue as will the increasingly competitive nature of the All-Ireland championship.
But Macauley feels Dublin are as well-placed as any county to be there or thereabouts when the medals are being handed out next September.
“A lot was made of the depth of our panel this year and I’m sure some of those lads that impressed as substitutes will want to play a more central role next year. Then you have to take into account the hopeful return of a fit Alan Brogan into the fold and you know how competitive it will be in claiming starting spots.
“We know it won’t be easy given that the likes of Donegal, Mayo, Kerry, Cork and Tyrone will be desperate for success themselves and we have the height of respect for them.
“But I think we are in a good place at the moment and although it won’t be easy, we are really looking forward to building on the success of the past 12 months,” concluded the Ballyboden St Enda’s clubman.