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'We don't take it so serious that we can't enjoy ourselves' - McCarthy
Dublin star James McCarthy discusses life in the Dublin squad and the recent spate of injuries they’ve suffered.

DUBLIN’S SURGE TO a fifth league title in six seasons is even more impressive when you consider the names absent from the teamsheet in the spring.

Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate after the game Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

For vastly different reasons, Diarmuid Connolly and Con O’Callaghan only managed 35 minutes between them in the entire campaign, while Jim Gavin’s side were also without several key men who are on the treatment table.

Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey are long-term cruciate absentees and Paul Flynn hasn’t seen a minute yet this season due to injury. Cian O’Sullivan won’t feature for Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin SFC this month and is facing a race against time to be fit in time for Dublin’s Leinster campaign after undergoing surgery on his shoulder.

There has been significant collateral damage suffered by the Dubs so far in 2018, but defender James McCarthy isn’t worried with the rate Dublin have been picking up injuries this year.

“Some guys have been unlucky,” he explains at the launch of the Cúl Heroes 2018 collection. “Everyone saw Jack’s injury last year, it was so innocuous. That scares you with the knee injury.

Cian O'Sullivan goes off injured Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“Cian was similarly unlucky with a shoulder injury. They’re the kind of injuries you can’t do anything about, they’re contact injuries and long-term injuries as well. Unfortunately we’ve got a few of them this year, but I’m sure other teams are getting them as well.”

The absentees opened the door for rookies like Brian Howard, Colm Basquel and Eoin Murchan who’ve made the most of their opportunities so far.

“They’re bringing a bit of added energy and excitement to the group,” says McCarthy. “They’re doing really well and it’s great to get guys stepping up year after year and being hungry for it. They’re doing really well, had a great league campaign.

“I’m sure they’ll be looking to push on when we get back after the club [month]. It’s great to see for the older lads in Dublin, seeing guys like that. It’s great experience to get all those games during the league.

Cúl Heroes 2018 Collection Launch David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

“Jim has shown, he picks guys on form – the guys that are doing well, they’ll continue to play. It’s a great place to be in this, to know that if you’re playing well, you’ll get a chance. That’s just the way it is and the way it’s always been. In fairness to the guys, they’ve done really well and if they keep going the way they are, they’ll continue it during the summer.

“We’re very fortunate with the group we have the last few years. We’re very close and tight. We push each other hard in training but at the of the day it’s a sport, it’s not life and death. We don’t take it so serious that we can’t enjoy ourselves.”

McCarthy himself picked up a “slight” hamstring strain during the four-point win over Galway in Croke Park 12 days ago, forcing him to leave the action just before half-time. His club Ballymun Kickhams open their campaign on Saturday night in Parnell Park against St Brigid’s, but the five-time All-Ireland winner is optimistic about his chances of featuring.

“I’ll be touch and go, but hopefully the hammer should be okay. It was a light strain, a bit of tightness. I’ll be training this week and all going well I’ll be involved, we’ll see.”

James McCarthy leaves the pitch Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

The Footballer of the Year nominee has seen increased game-time at midfield in the past 12 months. He burst forward from centre-field to nail a key score in last year’s All-Ireland final win over Mayo and has impressed in his various appearances as a partner to Brian Fenton again this year.

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“There’s not too many differences if you’re playing in the middle eight, they’re kind of similar positions. There are subtle changes, obviously. If you’re playing midfield it’s a different type of running than if you’re playing half-back. I find when you’re playing midfield you’re constantly running.

“You’re box-to-box but it doesn’t feel like you’re sprinting at any stage whereas at half-back or half-forward you’re playing in bursts. Those are the kind of big differences, really. There’s not much difference really between them, that’s it.

“The nature of midfield is midfielders don’t like marking each other. It’s a bit looser, I suppose you do find yourself in a bit more space. Probably, at times, you would be higher up the pitch than you would be in defence where, obviously, you’re worried about marking somebody.

“It’s similar at half-back, you can kind of get on with the play and things as well. I find them pretty similar and I’m pretty used to playing both with the club as well. I’m just happy to take the jersey – if you’re picked, you’re happy.”

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Cúl Heroes, the official trading cards of the GAA/GPA, launched their 2018 collection at Croke Park with brand ambassadors James McCarthy and Padraic Mannion as well as Noelle Healy and Gemma O’Connor. Cúl Heroes is entering its fourth year on the market and aims to continue its promotion of Gaelic Games, the players and the unique skills of our national sport. In attendance at the launch is Galway hurler Padraic Mannion at Croke Park in Dublin. 

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