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'I don’t feel hard done by, I feel disappointed that I haven’t kicked on more'

Connacht out-half Jack Carty turned down offers from overseas in order to try play his way back into Andy Farrell’s plans.

Connacht out-half Jack Carty.
Connacht out-half Jack Carty.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JACK CARTY FOUND himself in demand – just not by the man who matters most.

The Connacht out-half hasn’t represented Ireland since the 2019 World Cup, but wearing the green jersey again remains his driving ambition. That’s why, when presented with tempting offers from abroad, he touched base with Andy Farrell before making his decision.

“There were opportunities elsewhere and it was a decision for me whether I wanted to give it another whack to try to get back in (with Ireland) or try something else new,” says Carty, who signed a new contract with Connacht in March.

“It would have been a pretty big move in terms of experiencing something completely different – a new language, etc. But the thing for me was I’ve been in Connacht for my whole career. The way I like to see it is there’ll always be that [option] in the future. I’d hate to look back in regret and say, ‘I had an opportunity to maybe get a couple more caps but I took an option to go somewhere else.’”

Carty’s understanding from conversations with Farrell is that the Ireland door is not closed for him.

“Obviously I had spoken to Connacht and I wanted to be respectful to them with everything they’ve done for me. The decision came down to me wanting to contribute to Connacht’s success and then to try to kick on and try to play for Ireland again. I put it out on a piece of paper with the pros and cons and that was the main thing.

jack-carty Jack Carty is an ambassador for Tackle Your Feelings. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“The last time I spoke to Faz we had a good conversation, it was before the selection of the summer squad and then I would have spoken to them around the time of contract talks as well in terms of what their thinking was.”

Carty was in the Ireland squad last autumn but missed out in the Six Nations and again in the recent summer Tests – with Billy Burns, Harry Byrne and Joey Carbery the three 10s included for the July games – but understands the decision.

“Do I feel hard done by? No, I don’t feel hard done by, I probably feel disappointed that I haven’t kicked on a little bit more.

Selection is a perception thing, I suppose. If I compare myself to the time that I got my 10 caps (2019) – have I played at the same level and with the same consistency as I did then? Probably not. I’m probably leaving myself open not to be selected where before I gave myself the opportunity where I could nearly not not be selected.”

The one recurring criticism of Carty’s game is a lack of consistency, with the player himself accepting the occasional on-pitch “brainfarts” stand out more that the moments of magic he can also produce.

Naturally, it’s an issue he’s made efforts to address.

“I think it’s primarily down to focus for me, to be honest,” he explains.

“I think I probably drift in and drift out. I could be thinking all sorts in games sometimes. The games that I look back on – the Racing game, the Leinster game, the Ospreys game – all the games that I performed particularly well in (last season), I try to think back on what I was thinking during those games and you nearly forget it. It’s one of those things where you’re in the flow.

“I’ve got these things – you’ll probably laugh at me now – these blaze pods, they’re like reaction lights. 

I use a focus coach in Galway but because of Covid I wasn’t able to see him on a weekly basis last year. I’ve a special focus band and it helps monitor your brain activity. It gives you an insight into the feedback and whether there’s conscious thoughts coming in and teaches your brain to block them out. If I look back to when I was at the top of my game, the levels on that were at the upper end.

“I’m hoping that those things can get me that tunnel vision when I’m on the pitch so external influences don’t creep in.”

Carty, an ambassador for Tackle Your Feelings, has had to get used to dealing with setbacks in his career. The fallout from the 2019 World Cup proved a challenging time, and last year’s lockdown brought with it fresh challenges. As part of the latest Tackle Your Feelings campaign, he recalls reaching out to his good friend, Ulster scrum-half John Cooney, for some words of advice during lockdown.

He’s also benefited from strong support within Connacht. Head coach Andy Friend, who recommended Carty take some time off following his World Cup experience, has never been shy to praise the player’s ability in public

“I haven’t had a coach like him, firstly in terms of how honest he is to you,” Carty says.

“If you’re not able to take that as a player obviously it can be quite tough. He tells the players ‘Do you want me to be completely honest with you?’ And he will.

You have the utmost respect for him because you know everything he does comes from the right place. His wife last year during lockdown was going around to players’ houses and dropping them off baked food. We’re so lucky… Friend would be checking in on players every week, giving them calls and he’ll meet players for lunch or breakfast.

“He’s very proactive in seeing players that are struggling as well, I think. I’ve seen Friendy outside of rugby go above and beyond for players who are in pretty difficult situations, which is absolutely phenomenal.

“He’s a top, top man and everyone in Connacht would probably say the same thing about him.”

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That support isn’t lost on Carty, which brings us back to his reasons for signing on again with Connacht.

jack-carty-with-vasily-artemyev-and-tagir-gadzhiev Carty last played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The major motivation for me was the fact that I didn’t play in that Pro12 final [in 2016]. That drives me for Connacht, the fact that I wasn’t involved with that and seeing everything after, I felt a bit detached from the emotion of it, albeit that I played a good few games that season.

“A big thing for me is to try to contribute to Connacht’s success next year. We can see where we are after that.”

And Ireland?

“Look, they’re obviously trying to build for the future and try fellas who came back from injury so I can understand it in that sense.

“Obviously there’s players there who have played less game time than I have but I can only really focus on myself. When I look back on the way that the last year went – I started off really well until maybe November time, when there was a bit of a dip in and around the games before Christmas.

“I finished strong towards the end so the season finished at probably the wrong time for me, but I’m of the view that, and from speaking to Faz, that if I play well and am starting week-in and week-out and bring that level of consistency I’d like to think that I’ll be in a position where I can’t not be picked.”

Jack Carty has teamed up with Ireland and Ulster player, John Cooney and the Tackle Your Feelings campaign, to release a new video, highlighting the importance of their friendship and how they have leaned on each other at critical points in their careers.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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