‘I’m definitely planning on going back’ - No hesitation for James McCarthy as he commits to 2023 campaign

Unfinished business remains for the decorated Dublin midfielder after two semi-final defeats in as many years

James McCarthy will not spend the winter weighing up his intercounty future. There will be no vacuum of uncertainty, because for the Dublin captain there is unfinished business to tidy up.

The 2022 season was a frustrating one for McCarthy, with the 32-year-old’s campaign curtailed by a series of irksome injuries. In Dublin’s 12 games between league and championship, the Ballymun man started just five.

One of those starts was the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry when McCarthy raged against the storm, giving a display of defiance that almost dragged his county over the line. In defeat, he was heroic, but for a player with a record-equalling eight All-Ireland medals such approbation rings hollow. Defeat is defeat.

“We lost an All-Ireland semi-final by a score with the last kick of the game, that’s the way it finished unfortunately, that’s not the way we wanted it to finish, but that’s the reality. It was a great kick by Sean O’Shea to win it. I have been on the other side of that plenty of times over the years, that’s the way it goes,” says McCarthy.


But it is not the way it ends. McCarthy has committed to the cause again for next year. Rather than skirting around the issue, when asked about his plans for 2023 he is unequivocal.

“I’m definitely planning on going back next season, I think there is a bit of unfinished business still. I’m still enjoying my football, albeit it I had too many injuries this year, but I’m still really enjoying the training and the competing and playing the games. You’ll be finished long enough, so I’ll try get another year or two out of it if I can.”

What unfinished business one of the most decorated footballers in the history of the game can still have fuelling the furnace within is hard to know, then again it is that same manic competitiveness that got him there in the first place. McCarthy has always been a driver of standards in the Dublin set-up. Whether it be sprints or weights, he would put himself on the block to be the fastest, the strongest.

“I still think we can win an All-Ireland title, that’s the truth of it – and that’s the goal for next season. We’ll be really going hard for it,” he says.

“Look, we haven’t been good enough the last two seasons, that’s a fact, we lost two semi-finals and we’ve been relegated from Division One. But do I still think the group is good enough to compete for the highest honours? Absolutely. And we’d be hoping to drive that on for next season.

“We probably had 20 new players in the squad the last two or three years as well. You had the likes of Lee Gannon this year, Lorcan O’Dell, Tom Lahiff, and they are really shaping up well. The challenge now for them is to build on it and I’ll definitely be trying to drive them to do that and not fall on their laurels but get better every year.”

On a personal level, McCarthy wants to sort out his injuries. He stumbled from hamstring injury to groin and back again to hamstring most of the season. If a small bag of nails was scattered in a 100-acre field, McCarthy’s luck this season suggests he’d manage to step on each one. Even after the intercounty season was over he was forced off injured during Ballymun’s first club championship game, but he does hope to be available to play Cuala this Sunday.

“It is something I need to reflect on because you are no good to anybody if you are on the sidelines and not playing. It was a messy year, I just kept picking up little knocks and niggles and muscle injuries. I’d be fairly diligent in my training. I got some hamstring injuries this year, which I would be annoyed about because I always think you can prevent them, it’s the contact ones you can’t do anything about.”

It wasn’t just McCarthy that struggled with injuries this year, the loss of Con O’Callaghan for the Kerry match swung the pendulum in the Kingdom’s favour. McCarthy concedes O’Callaghan was ‘a massive loss’ but says Dublin still could have won the game. “But it’s in the history books now.”

Dessie Farrell, whose future was the source of much speculation, will be back at the helm next year.

“The group are delighted Dessie is staying on he’s been a great manager and coach. There is that continuity and keeping trying to build on what we are doing. We are not happy with how last season went but I think we are building and I think we will have as good a shot at a title next year as any other team in the country.”

*James McCarthy was speaking at the launch of AIG’s new Injury Cash product. For more information visit www.aig.ie/injurycash.