James McCarthy meets challenge of more varied role

Departures from defence have seen flying wing back step up to fill the void

For many people the standout performer for Dublin during the recent four-in-a-row AFL success has been James McCarthy. At 26, the youngest of the Dublin players to have won three All-Ireland medals, he had a more versatile role than usual during the campaign.

Lining out at centrefield in some matches, his defensive contributions were also more varied from his familiar position as a pacy wing back, with a flair for getting forward, to more specialised man marking duties like he carried out on Donegal's Michael Murphy.

In the first match between the counties, he became embroiled in a controversy over an incident with Martin McElhinney which led to accusations of gouging, which were not deemed worth pursuing by the authorities.

“Slowed down, it looked way worse than it was,” said McCarthy, an ambassador for Cúl Heroes at Monday’s product launch in Croke Park. But it’s in the past now.”


He said that he had been happy with the different challenges of the season so far.

“I have gone around the pitch a bit this year and it’s no harm to do that, as different games call for different jobs. I enjoy playing anywhere from two up – maybe not past nine!”

One of the influences in his broader defensive roles has been the departure of two of the team’s highest-profile defenders, All Star full back Rory O’Carroll and Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey.

"Possibly, yeah," said McCarthy when asked if the need to redevelop the defence had had an influence on his deployment. "The two boys are big losses. Rory on the square is one of the best full backs that's played the game. You've got to be able to fill the void. Cian O'Sullivan went in there the last day to mark Kieran Donaghy at the weekend so it's good to have that flexibility and be able to do those jobs.

Big loss

“The two lads are big players. They’re a big loss from the last couple of years. Yeah, there is an added responsibility there to make up for their loss.

"But there are guys there who are putting their hands up and filling that void. Look at Davy Byrne there, he had a great game at the weekend."

The weekend’s win over Kerry was Dublin’s ninth in 11 competitive matches since the All-Ireland quarter-final mauling of 2009. McCarthy said that the level of the county’s superiority over Kerry was no surprise to the players.

“We’ve a really good team at the moment. We’ve been going really hard. Ever since Pat [Gilroy, former manager] came in, we’ve been taking these games really seriously.

“We started beating Kerry in the league and then that led us to beat them in the championship. At the moment, we might have the upper hand but it will be a different Kerry team if we meet them later on in the year.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times