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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 26 May, 2020

'There are times you're going to lose motivation. It’s normal to have those bad days'

James McCarthy discusses life under lockdown and how he’s balancing trying to get fitter and stronger, while also staying fresh.

Dublin footballer James McCarthy.
Dublin footballer James McCarthy.
Image: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

LIKE THOUSANDS OF GAA supporters around the country, James McCarthy sat down in front of his TV on Sunday afternoon to take in the 2013 Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland semi-final. 

“Everyone is enjoying the old games at the moment trying to pass some time,” he says.

“Eir and TG4 are showing the old games and that’s tiding over the world without sport at the moment. I think it’s just helping.”

It will be another while before the 2020 version of Dublin returns to the TV screens. For now, re-runs of classic games will have to do. 

McCarthy is still coming to terms with the new reality. Since he hopped on the carousel under Pat Gilroy back in 2011, it’s been non-stop almost all year round.

More often than not, Dublin’s campaign would run from January to September and then the club season with Ballymun would kick in. November and December were filled with All-Star tours, team holidays and some downtime before the whole circus started up again in the New Year.

For the first time in a long time, the pause button has been pressed on McCarthy’s footballing life. 

“Cracking up,” he laughs when asked how he’s finding lockdown.

“It’s just weird, a weird vibe. It’s strange what’s going on everywhere. I’m just lucky where I live, I have three parks around the corner from me.

“So I can go to Poppintree Park, Albert College Park or Johnstown Park to do a bit of running, to kick a bit of ball. It’s all in a 2km radius.”

james-mccarthy Dublin's James McCarthy in action against Tyrone. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McCarthy is employed by AIB and has been working from home for the past few weeks.  

“You get the cabin fever,” he says. “You’re just trying to stick to good habits, getting up early, not staying in bed and just having a daily routine and trying to stick to that as best you can. Trying to stay sane the same as everyone.

“Nothing crazy, really. With the bit of experience over the years, you know not to train too hard either and to say fresh.

“But just doing a bit of running and kicking a bit of ball when I can. I suppose you’re nearly like a kid again going out to the back garden and kicking a football off the wall, really.

“That’s the best of the skills you’re doing really and if I’m going to the park I’ve two or three balls myself and try and kick a few scores. I’ve turned into a bit of a DIY merchant at home and cleared out the garage and done the garden up. I have a few weights in the garden and trying to keep my strength up that way.

“But it’s weird not training with group,” he admits. “A week or two is fine. You’re nearly happy not to be seeing them all the time. But after that, you get the itch.

“Especially this time of year, when it’s starting to head towards the summer. You love training at this time of year. So it’s going to be tough the next few weeks. You can take the positives out of it. You can rest up and let the body heal up and different things, there are advantages to it as well.”

It’s been an extremely unusual start to Dessie Farrell’s reign as Dublin boss. From his late appointment in December to the timing of the team holiday that ran into January, the Na Fianna club man started life playing catch-up with the league fast approaching.

Now he’s been handed an entirely different challenge – to manage his squad from afar. He blooded a number of youngsters during a Division 1 campaign where a host of veterans didn’t even feature.

“Dessie has a lot of trust in the guys,” says McCarthy. “He’s staying in touch, everyone is staying in touch with each other. 

“I suppose this is a time to get other areas of our game, maybe the tactical side and the mindset side of the game as well – it is not ideal.

“It’s a huge challenge, you are not training together as a team, you are not working on your combinations and your plans, so that is a huge challenge.

“There is a lot of individual responsibility on guys as well to try tip away and stay fit, get fitter, get stronger, so it’s definitely a huge challenge.

john-small-and-james-mccarthy-with-gavin-obrien-and-stephen-obrien McCarthy contests a kick-out against Kerry. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“But you can take the pros and cons of it, you can use it to improve different areas as an individual I suppose really and try get yourself in the best position you can for when we do get back together as a group, which will hopefully not be too long.

“But it is a huge challenge, especially for younger guys on the team, trying to get combinations together is challenging, but the thing is everybody is in the same boat, so you just try hit the ground as best you can when we do get back.

“That’s the big challenge in the next few weeks. Obviously for the first while, you’re tipping away but when you go to five, six, seven weeks without the group it’s very hard.

“There are times you are going to lose motivation because that’s natural and when you do miss training for a day it’s about getting back on the horse as soon as you can. It’s normal to have those bad days.

“You just have to plan your weeks and days. That’s the best way, I find but it is a big challenge and the longer you’re away from the group the more you miss training.”

McCarthy recently hit a landmark last month. He celebrated his 30th birthday, just days after clubmate Dean Rock did the same. 

“We both hit 30 there a few weeks ago so we did nothing exciting. Went for dinner with my girlfriend that night on 1 March and that was about it really.

“It’s kind of scary when you get to that mark and how fast the years have gone by in the blink of an eye really. We’re around 10 or 11 years now so we’re getting plenty of stick from the younger guys, that’s the thing as well. They like letting us know we’re 30 anyway.

“It’s mad how it works out. We were playing with each other every year since we played U9s as well. We’d be very close. We’ve had a good laugh over the past few years.”

Like the rest of us, McCarthy is yearning for a return to normality.

“It’s tough. Obviously at the moment health is more important but sport is important too.

“It brings a lot of happiness and joy to people and they’re missing it. I think it will be a big lift to people when it does come back and hopefully that will be soon.

“People will be mad to go to matches and like all those things that get taken for granted, there’ll be great appreciation when it does come back. I think there’ll be huge crowds at games when we do get back.”


James McCarthy was speaking to media promoting the AIG Show Your Skills Challenge in support of the 20×20 movement. AIG are calling on women and girls of all ages, all abilities and all sports to showcase their talents by entering the online competition at to be in with a chance to win a monthly €1,000 prize.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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