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'I'm delighted I can dedicate this cap to him' - Carty spurred on by cousin

The 26-year-old Connacht man won his first Ireland cap in Rome.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stadio Olimpico, Rome

WHEN JACK CARTY was called on to fulfil the tradition and sing in front of his Ireland team-mates after winning his first cap in Rome this evening, he went for Ben E King’s ‘Stand by Me.’

Fittingly, so many of the people who have been unwavering in their support for the Athlone man were in the Italian capital to see him become an Ireland international.

Ultan Dillane and Jack Carty after the game Carty came off the bench in the closing minutes. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His two sisters, two brothers, his parents, his girlfriend, his niece, his brother-in-law, his sister’s boyfriend, and four mates from Athlone – all were present at Stadio Olimpico and all have stood by Carty through thick and thin.

“I’m delighted to get a few minutes at the end for all the work they’ve done and all the support they’ve given me over the years,” said Carty after playing the closing minutes of the game for Ireland.

This would have been an emotional occasion for the Cartys anyway, but it was all the more poignant for the fact that Jack has been inspired to keep chasing his dream of playing for Ireland by someone who is no longer with them – his cousin, Brian, who was a proud Garrycastle GAA man.

“It was a thing in the last 11, 12 months where I put my head down,” said Carty. “I didn’t want it to be ‘what if?’ scenario.

“It’s coming up on a year since my close cousin, Brian, passed away and before he passed away, he would have said, ‘Don’t have any regrets or anything like that.’ 

“That’s something that’s spurred me on.

“I’m delighted for my family but his family as well. It’s been a tough time for his family and my family. I’m delighted that I can dedicate this cap to him.”

Characteristically, Carty was in humble form after Ireland’s win in Rome, spreading the credit to all corners but his own.

Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Jack Carty and Quinn Roux after the game Carty with Connacht team-mates Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He was thrilled for all in Athlone at Marist College and Buccaneers RFC as he followed in his good friend Robbie Henshaw’s path by becoming an Ireland international.

“It would have been great to make the debut with Robbie,” said Carty. “Robbie’s dad, Tony, would have been our coach the whole way up and I’m still really close with his family. Hopefully, in the future, we might get a cap together.”

New caps tend not to swap the two jerseys they get for international games and Carty confirmed he had kept both of his but was thankful for the generous gesture of one of his team-mates post-match.

“Josh van der Flier, being a top man, gave me his spare one and I managed to get Ian McKinley’s jersey, which I was delighted to get.” 

Carty has been in superb form all season for Connacht, earning his opportunity off the bench at Stadio Olimpico.

Having only been in Ireland camp since the outset of this Six Nations camp – a “steep learning curve” – he didn’t feel he would get a great deal of game time anyway this evening and so it proved to be the case as he came on for Johnny Sexton in the 78th minute.

His Connacht team-mates Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane were in the starting team, while he was pleased that Tom Farrell and Caolin Blade were in Rome as extra bodies for Ireland, gaining matchday experience. 

Carty said he feels confident in his game at the moment, enjoying the backing of Connacht head coach Andy Friend and his assistants, Nigel Carolan, Jimmy Duffy and Peter Wilkins.

Carty has become a reliable performer in the number 10 shirt.

Jack Carty and Josh van der Flier celebrate winning Josh van der Flier gave Carty one of his jerseys to swap with Ian McKinley. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“My game over the last couple of years has been up and down,” said Carty. “There’s been a dramatic improvement in consistency in the last 10, 12 months and I suppose that was cutting out little errors, then probably getting the finishing edges to a couple of things.

“My kicking percentages went up and just trying to get myself in front of players when they’re running at me, I was probably falling off a few tackles. They’re two things you can evidently see with Connacht.

“I’ve been given a licence to kick a bit more and find backfield space, Friendy says that whatever weapons we have, he’ll back that. That’s the way I like to play, heads-up rugby, and I’m lucky I have a coaching ticket in Connacht and here in Ireland that reward that.

“You would have seen the way we used to play, retaining the ball. Last year, we went to a lot of contestable kicks and I find my strengths and the fellas around me are looking for that space in the backfield, especially when you see how teams are playing with a two-man backfield now. Space is at a premium but if you can find it, it’s really rewarding.”

With cap number one under his belt, Carty is looking forward to the challenge of adding to this achievement.

“The monkey’s off the back and I can finally say I’ve played for Ireland and now I want to build for two, five, hopefully 10 caps after this.”

But first, that song.

“To be honest, I don’t know how nervous I was for the match or if it was the public speaking and singing after it! Once I get that over with, I’ll be able to relax a bit more.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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