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Carty overcomes criticism to kick Connacht to spectacular late win

The 24-year-old out-half was rewarded for his hard work in training.

WHEN IT CAME down to perhaps the most important place kick of his career so far, Jack Carty felt more prepared than ever.

The 24-year-old has been aware of the criticism his kicking off the tee has drawn in recent times, particularly after Connacht’s defeat away to Wasps two weekends ago, when he missed two penalties.

Jack Carty kicks the winning conversion Carty nailed the crucial kick for Connacht. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

But when Naulia Dawai steered the Connacht maul to a last-gasp try on Saturday night in Galway and Carty was tasked with winning the game with a conversion from the right-hand touchline, the out-half was able to hold his nerve to notch the vital two points in a 20-18 victory.

Carty had missed an early penalty in the game, although he recovered well to nail a classy left-hand side conversion after Danie Poolman’s try just before half-time.

“I suppose it was a case that I was aware of it,” said Carty post-match when asked about the flak he has faced over his kicking. “Certain kicks, like my first one; they’re the ones that you need to be nailing.

You are obviously aware of it. I try to block it out, when maybe when I was younger last year or the year before those things might have gotten to me.”

Carty has been working hard at his craft, and working hard with the right people.

Last week, he focused extensively on his place kicking with former Connacht out-half and head coach Eric Elwood and Ireland skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy. A whole lot of expertise.

And though the mental elements of place kicking will always be vital, some subtle technical re-adjustments were crucial to Carty helping Connacht to a famous European win.

“You try not to change that much, but where my kicking was quite inconsistent I had to change a few things,” said Carty.

“I was kind of kicking around the ball, which led to the ball being hooked a lot to the left and then I was over-compensating in trying to put it out on the right because I knew I was doing that.

Jack Carty celebrates a conversion that wins Connacht the game with his teammates Carty was mobbed by his team-mates. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“So, it was about not hitting around the ball but kicking through it. On the first one, that’s what happened – I kind of kicked around it and dragged it left and then the next four I kicked them in the sweet spot and they went straight then.”

Carty does also spend time working on the mental side of the game, and not just around the place-kicking duties that are solely his at Connacht right now, with no other specialist kickers fit.

He has done work with sports psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, who worked with Team Ireland at the Olympics earlier this year, although their meetings haven’t been too frequent more recently.

Carty is also a big fan of the Headspace app, which he uses as part of his weekly preparation, putting things he has previously worked on with Fitzpatrick into practice.

It’s about focus and stuff like that,” said Carty. “It’s the kind of thing where if you had a bad performance, you’d say ‘Ok, I didn’t do that. That’s what it is.’ It’s good to have it in the back of your mind to think about throughout the week.

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“I had a good week with it this week so hopefully that’s what gave me the performance.”

Carty is still a relatively young out-half and he clearly has plenty of further potential to realise. Indeed, he has been mentioned by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt before as one to keep an eye on for the future and Carty is certainly an ambitious young man.

He won’t be getting ahead of himself after last weekend’s success, however, and will instead concentrate on backing up his match-winning feats in the festive inter-provincial clashes with Ulster on 23 December and Munster on 31 December.

Jack Carty celebrates a conversion that wins Connacht the game This could prove a big moment for Carty. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I’m under no illusions about the work-ons I have to do,” said Carty. “I’ll focus on my defence and in the off-season I think I’ve made good strides with that. I suppose it’s about the consistency of my game, there’s a lot of ups and downs over the last few weeks and during the game, you could see I missed a kick to touch.

“That’s tough on the forwards when they see the kick of a ball loosely. I suppose it’s about ironing those things out and then hopefully I’ll be in contention.”

While Schmidt watches on from afar, Connacht boss Pat Lam is delighted to see rewards for Carty’s work-rate away from match day.

Lam stressed the importance of “a local boy from Connacht” starring at out-half for the province, and underlined that Carty has managed to deal with the criticism of recent times in an impressive manner.

We understand we are in a performance industry and the only currency the boys have is the performances they are judged on,” said Lam on Saturday night. “But the performance comes on the back of the work. Guys are going to make mistakes, it’s high-level stuff.

“Jack, right through his career, he was an academy player when I first got here, and I have watched his development and it has been ongoing. I see he takes it to heart but there is only one way you can go: just dust yourself off, get up and start doing the work. There is no point feeling sorry for yourself.

“It’s just using that motivation to drive you more at training. I don’t usually watch but Eric was doing a session with him on Friday and I went and watched a couple of kicks and I saw the work that was being put in there as well.

“I said that is fine and I’ll leave it to those guys, as long as they are doing the work. It’s a tough job the goal kicker has and I am just so pleased he got a great result.”

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