Connacht’s Carty learning from the best and trying to better them
Ireland international retains ambitions of making it to the World Cup in Japan
Jack Carty: one of the contenders for the Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award following his impressive form for Connacht this season. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
A little parental hoodwinkery and Jack Carty is lining up the season of his life with Connacht and Ireland. A Six Nations debut against Italy this year marked as much a counterpoint as a high point. At 16-years-old he had all but packed his bags to go to Southampton FC for a trial.
Word came back Southampton had put an embargo on all transfers. Young Carty stayed put. Soccer and Gaelic football turned his head. Yet here he is with a chance of playing in this year’s Rugby World Cup.
“I played under-15 for Ireland,” he says. “Basically I got a letter offering me a trial at Southampton. I was told there was a transfer embargo at Southampton at my parents.
“They wanted me to sit my Leaving Cert. I had the bags packed when I got the letter. I was like ‘right I’m gone’. The chances of me making it there? I would have backed myself to have done it. But my parents told me that they let it fizzle out and if Southampton had really, really wanted me they would have come back.”
It seems apt that Carty’s improved kicking is central. One flows from the other and from that his game has risen too. He cites Rob Kelly. Kelly works in tennis, Golf and kids with ADHD, and offered services to Connacht on focus.
Carty has that personality of clearing the mind, blocking out noise and surrounding faff. He jumped. His kicking improved by 5.5 per cent, small but enough to reach the magic 80 per cent mark.
“It was at 72-73 per cent. It had to be 80 per cent-plus,” he says.
The GAA and soccer might have passed him. But they also left indelible marks. Clearly the Southampton ruse didn’t crush him.
“No. Not at all. I knew I had to be realistic. I was playing [Ireland] under-15s. But for under-16s I didn’t get picked for the first squad. You’d fellas like Mark O’Brien who was playing at Derby County. You’d Matt Doherty who signed for Wolves, Danny Joyce who was playing at Reading. So all these players in England and I was still playing with Hodson Bay back in Athlone.
“Did I want to go and play with Athlone Town and play League of Ireland or did I want to continue playing Gaelic, rugby and soccer. I was a centre-half. I would have been the same height as I am now and was good in the air. Technically I wasn’t that good.
“Anytime the ball was at my feet I just pumped it 40 yards down the pitch – to touch! You would have Robbie Brady on one wing, Jeff Hendrick was centre-mid, Owen Wearon who played with Bohs and Sligo Rovers and is at Glenavon now, Robbie Benson who is at Dundalk and who was in the same school as me.
“My brother in law is Donie Shine who would have played with Roscommon for years,” adds the 26-year-old. “I would have played with Ciarán Murtagh who is the captain of Roscommon, Colm Compton. I’m St Brigid’s. I tried to go back last summer to play a bit of junior to stay fit but I left it off in the end.”
Carty is running against Munster’s Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne and Leinster lock James Ryan for the Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award as well as five other players including Ryan and Beirne for the Supporters’ Player of the Year award.
Japan is an ambition. But he knows Joey Carbery will be back, Ross Byrne has played himself into the picture and John Cooney can, at a push, play nine and 10 and kicks. He knows injuries will force hands and Joe Schmidt will have hard choices about who will back Johnny Sexton.
But as Carty was when he was getting here, he is now. Learning from the best and trying to better them.