Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Joe McCarthy scores against Romania.
Big Joe

McCarthy 'only scratching the surface' after strong World Cup debut

The 22-year-old second row put in an all-action 80-minute performance against Romania.

WHEN ROMANIA FULLBACK Marius Simionescu came up with a quite brilliant tackle on Joe McCarthy in the left corner in the 67th minute, the Ireland lock must have thought that it wasn’t going to be his day when it came to try-scoring.

The 22-year-old, making his second Test start for Ireland, had already been held up over the tryline twice, Romanian tacklers just about denying him his first try in the green jersey.

“A few of my mates are slagging me about butchering a few chances,” said McCarthy after Ireland’s 82-8 win over the Oaks on Saturday in Bordeaux. “It’s tough when a back smashes you like that.”

But McCarthy’s friends had to congratulate him too. On the very next play after Simionescu’s try-saver, Conor Murray offloaded to McCarthy and from 10 metres out, he showed footwork and threw out a fend to beat a weak Romanian tackle and cross for his first five-pointer at senior international level.

“A bit of relief to be honest,” said McCarthy of his score. “But it was unbelievable. The fans were crazy, the Irish fans are just buzzing when they travel away. It was class, one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever been in.”

It was the high point in a fine World Cup debut for McCarthy, the youngest player in Ireland’s squad. He played the full 80 minutes and got through a mountain of work.

Only Bundee Aki had more carries than McCarthy’s 17, while the Irish lock also threw three offloads and eight passes, some of them showing his ever-improving handling skills.

joe-mccarthy-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-ronan-kelleher Dan Sheridan / INPHO McCarthy celebrates his score. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

McCarthy had more ruck arrivals than any other Irish player with 18 and he also completed all six of his tackle attempts. He would have been frustrated to concede a first-half penalty but it was a tough one as he appeared to show a clear release from the tackle before jackaling.

At set-piece time, he helped Ireland to win the scrum battle, while his defensive maul work was impressive once again, including a clean turnover of the Romanians at one stage, with a nice offload that allowed his side to counter-attack.

“I was very nervous to be honest, the most nervous I’ve felt in a while before a game,” said McCarthy of the experience.

“Because it’s the World Cup, there are so many more eyes on it, you’re getting more texts. It just feels like a big occasion and you kind of want to put your best foot forward. There were a lot of nerves going into it. I think everybody felt that. A bit of nerves is good, it keeps you on your toes.”

This was only McCarthy’s fourth cap for Ireland and he is excited to keep learning from Ireland’s coaches and his team-mates.

The Leinster man believes that he is only getting started in terms of where he can bring his game.

“I feel like I’m only scratching the surface,” said McCarthy.

joe-mccarthy-celebrates-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO McCarthy in a Romanian shirt. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I feel like I’ve got so much to improve as a player. I feel like every time I come into camp I’m learning from Paul O’Connell and all the world-class players we have and getting better every week. I have miles, miles left.”

Clearly, he is aiming to have a big impact in this World Cup for Ireland and it will be fascinating to see what role he plays from here on. 

McCarthy’s ballast means he brings something different and he’s rounding his game out all the time. 

His family were in the crowd on Saturday in Bordeaux and they’ll be roaring him on every step of the way.

“My family are fantastic,” said McCarthy. “They’ve played a massive part in getting me to where I am and they come to any game, no matter where is, down the country some place or across the world, they’re always there.”

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