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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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'I hope there will be another opportunity for me': McCarthy not giving up on Ireland future

The second row is returning to full fitness after an injury-plagued nine months.

IT WAS, IN so many ways, a sickening image.

With an hour gone at the Stade de France, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland — battered and bruised — held a six-point advantage over France in the second game of the Six Nations campaign.

Dave Kearney and Sean O’Brien had already succumbed to a ferociously physical first half of rugby and Johnny Sexton had been targeted, illegally, on more than one occasion.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Mike McCarthy lay flattened, bloodied and dazed, on the turf. As the second row had gone to shut down Maxime Medard, he collided with team-mate Jack McGrath and collided with the prop’s sturdy frame.

Mike McCarthy down injured McCarthy lays stricken on the Stade de France pitch. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Nine months later and the 34-year-old has featured in just five games since as he continues to work his way back to full fitness. It has, understandably, been a slow process.

“I missed half the season last year so it was frustrating,” he says.

“To be honest I’ve been quite lucky throughout my career with injury, haven’t had too many serious injuries. That was on the back of having a few concussions so they stood me down.

“It’s frustrating because you feel fine in your body but you just have to keep thinking that Leinster and the IRFU are doing all they can to look after you and that gives me real confidence going forward.”

Once McCarthy had completed the return to play protocols, heeded the specialist’s advice and then been given the green light to resume full-contact training, he suffered another setback; this time in the form of a foot injury.

He had enjoyed three outings before another six weeks on the sidelines and upon his return, the lock then had to withdraw from the trip to Montpellier with a virus. Talk about bad luck.

“That was really frustrating because they’re the games you want and need to be playing,” he says.

Mike McCarthy leaves the field injured McCarthy is helped off the field. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Before the recent Pro12 break, McCarthy had returned to the side and featured off the bench in the victory over Connacht before playing 70 minutes in Parma against Zebre.

“At the start of the season I was rusty, I personally felt I was off the pace,” the English-born player added. “I thought I was building and improving but it was really frustrating getting the injury. Happy the last two weeks, happy with my performances against Connacht and Zebre, obviously I know I can always be better and do things better and try and improve.

“It’s kind of frustrating there has been no game the last two weeks because I just want to get match fitness and play week in, week out.”

Naturally, McCarthy’s first focus is returning to full fitness with the aim of hitting the peak form which saw him become an integral part of Joe Schmidt’s Irish set-up.

In his absence, the likes of Donnacha Ryan and Iain Henderson have stepped up to the plate and McCarthy admits watching on during the summer tour of South Africa and the recent November Tests has been tough.

Mike McCarthy The Leinster man speaking to media yesterday. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“You look on and wish you were there,” he says of Saturday’s defeat to New Zealand.

“Obviously the lads winning in Chicago and myself being involved in the game in 2013 so you obviously wish you were playing but I wasn’t so that’s the reality of it so you just crack on.

“Just keep working hard and hopefully there will be another opportunity for you down the line. and rediscover the form which had seen him became a regular in Ireland’s second row.

“I didn’t doubt I’d be back at all, I was just frustrated at the length of time I was out. As I said you feel fine in your body, you feel you can be out there and training with the lads but the Leinster and IRFU medics really looked after me and I’m really grateful for that.

“It’s frustrating being out for a long time definitely but I never doubted I’d be back playing again.”

And does he believe he can add to his 19 international caps?

“Yeah I definitely believe it,” he says emphatically. “The guys that are there now are going very well but there’s a lot of competition.

“Since I got the injury in that France game guys have come in and played exceptionally well so it makes it tougher. Keep working hard and playing as well as I can and I hope there will be another opportunity for me in the future.”

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Ryan Bailey

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