Will Laochra Gael reveal the real Michael Darragh Macauley?

‘I would have walked away a couple of times ... but I didn’t because I was so competitive’

Michael Darragh MacAuley: ‘Anyone who knows me as well will tell you that I can be very intense about things and very competitive.’ File photograph: Inpho

Michael Darragh MacAuley: ‘Anyone who knows me as well will tell you that I can be very intense about things and very competitive.’ File photograph: Inpho

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Michael Darragh Macauley appears sitting in the sun on a beachside veranda under clear blue skies, wearing a black tank top and grey shorts, looking magnificently healthy and sporting a relaxed happy glow. As Zoom call entrances come and go, and especially in mid-January, it is positively otherworldly.

It’s exactly a year already since Macauley announced his retirement from intercounty football, eight All-Ireland medals with Dublin, two All Stars, and the 2013 Footballer of the Year among his many accolades. He’s clearly moved on from that period, sitting there – at the revered surfing town of Hikkaduwa, on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka – to talk back to us about the latest series of Laochra Gael, which this Thursday reflects on Macauley’s life and football career in all its glory and some pain.

“Yeah, I’m travelling about five or six months now, I’m losing track,” he begins. “I’ve kind of got caught in Sri Lanka for the last while, because India won’t let me in, but yeah, worse places to be stuck.

So where has he been?

“Went around Europe, hiked around the Dolomite mountains, did Montenegro, Albania and Serbia, then went to Morocco – went surfing for a month there. Went hiking all around Nepal, did the Annapurna circuit, knocking around Everest and all that sort of craic, did five weeks there.

“We just wanted to go up and see Everest so we went up to Namche Bazaar, and there was a view point and stuff, we went up pretty high, and then I’ve been in Sri Lanka, rolling around Sri Lanka for the last while.”

Asked if this adventurous wanderlust is somehow helping to replace his own self-confessed competitive instinct on the football field, even if often masked by his laid-back attitude off it, Macauley doesn’t yet think so.

“No, no. I would have tried to get up Everest if [that was the case]. I’ll always have that competitive thing, and I’m very open to experiences in general. It’s been fairly Covidy since I left. My plan was to get back into high-level basketball but that wasn’t really a runner. Then when it was a runner, I’d booked flights at that stage. I definitely wouldn’t change that. It’s nice to have time to put into stuff.

“We all know how time consuming county football is these days. It’s nice to have little things, just to be able to have a few Fridays where I was able to meet my friends. So it’s been a nice transition. I’m sure I’ll be stupidly competitive about something else in the future. But I’m pretty chill at the moment.

“I was at a point where it was easy to kind of walk away at that time. It’s never an easy decision but the stage where I was, it was the perfect time to walk away and zero regrets. Physically, possibly I had another year left in me but it was definitely the right decision. I gave it absolutely everything in the last season, didn’t work out for me, that’s fine, it’s been all good.

“It wasn’t drawn out over a long period, it was very quickly done. I don’t know, I’ve never been at any sort of odds to talk about anything, really, as you lads probably know – bar Dublin tactics, but that’s because I didn’t know. And I never had any interest in writing books or any of that craic, but I thought it would be nice to have a little thing to show people at some stage, so that’s kind of why I was convinced to do it [Laochra Gael] to be honest.”

Loss of parents

We know Macauley’s episode makes some interesting revelations, including a skateboarding accident at a wedding that was the true cause behind the knee injury which mostly ruined his 2017 season.

“There was a skateboard involved, there was also David Moran jumping on my back in a game at some stage, so there were two elements to it.”

The loss of his parents (his mother Rosaleen died when he was 12, his father Michael died in 2012) continues to shape his approach to life, the laid-back part of his playing career open, he thinks, to some exaggeration.

“Yeah, like I see that conflicting view, but anyone who knows me as well will tell you that I can be very intense about things and very competitive, have a huge will to win in a lot of things.

“I’ve seen that conflict in myself at times and I don’t know where I sit on it sometimes . . . I tried my ass off in training. I tried my ass off in between every single training session, so I wasn’t laid back whenever it comes to the physicality part of it. Being a top performer in football and life, that wasn’t something I was laid back about.

“And that is where the contradictions come in about being laid back about football. If I was I laid back about my football I would have done it, I would have walked away a couple of times as you have seen some players do. I didn’t because I was so competitive that I wanted to stick it out.”

  • Laochra Gael: Michael Darragh Macauley, Thursday, January 20th, 9.30pm, TG4
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