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'Boy, is he a character!' - Leinster gutted McCarthy can't make France move

The 35-year-old has been forced to retire with immediate effect.

MIKE MCCARTHY WOULD have done very well in the Pro D2, where being tough is a minimum requirement.

It’s not a league for the faint hearted, with the set-piece primary and the physical exchanges regularly boiling over into fully-blown fisticuffs. The big Leinster lock would have been well able for that side of things.

Josh van der Flier, Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy McCarthy [right] shares a joke with Josh van der Flier and Devin Toner. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Yet, there is room for an offload here and there in France’s second tier, and McCarthy has looked increasingly comfortable handling the ball as his career has progressed, particularly this season within Leinster’s expansive and exciting approach.

Off the pitch, one senses that the 35-year-old would have enjoyed life in France too. Renowned as a big character in Irish rugby, he would have added greatly to Narbonne’s culture as they look to build towards promotion into the Top 14 next season.

But McCarthy has been denied the chance to get a taste for the good life in France on a two-year deal, announcing last night that he has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to an elbow injury.

His statement made for difficult reading, as the second row rightly lamented the fact that he wasn’t able to bid rugby farewell in the manner he would have liked.

His team-mates and friends at Leinster knew he was leaving this summer, but they are gutted to see McCarthy denied his adventure with Narbonne.

“It is really disappointing for him and particularly because he would have liked to have got the chance to go out on his own terms,” says Rhys Ruddock. “He had plans and didn’t get to fulfil them.

“Beyond that, you have to look at the career he has had. All of us had tremendous respect for him when he played for Connacht and we had some battles against him.

Mike McCarthy McCarthy was starting in Ireland's second row as recently as last year. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“And then to get him into our environment and see what type of character he is and, boy, is he a character!

“He is a great lad and someone who has really added to the environment. From playing against him and recently playing with him and enjoying his company, I really have a lot of respect for him. Although we’re disappointed he didn’t get the chance to finish the way he wanted, we wish him all the best.”

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has played against and with McCarthy too, as well as coaching him in the last two years and has appreciated the 19-times capped Ireland international’s influence.

“We had some good tussles when he was with Connacht,” says Cullen. “I enjoyed playing with him here and it was a real pleasure to be coaching with him for two seasons. A larger than life character and we will really miss him.

“That’s the nature of the game, as players push on with an accumulation of bangs and knocks, it’s sad that he couldn’t go out the way he planned. That is the nature of the game that we are involved in.”

It’s a disappointing way for McCarthy’s career to come to an end, while another veteran Leinster lock is getting ready to say his farewell.

Hayden Triggs has the fortune to be able to do so on the pitch, with the 35-year-old Kiwi starting tomorrow’s Pro12 semi-final against the Scarlets in what will be his final appearance at the RDS.

Jack McGrath and Hayden Triggs pose for a picture with Jennifer Malone Triggs [right] will bid farewell to the RDS tomorrow night. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The former Highlanders and Blues lock is set to retire at the end of the season but has made an influential impact since joining Leinster in 2015.

“It’s a difficult time for every player who has to come to the end at some point. Hayden has been great, he has really added since he came into the camp,” says Cullen.

“Obviously, it was well documented that he had tough personal times earlier this season. He has rebounded well and really added value to the group.”

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Murray Kinsella

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