Versatile Macauley happy in roving role for Dubs

Michael Darragh Macauley shuffles lazily into Dublin’s DCU training HQ with his Michael Jackson t-shirt, adidas boot runners, impossibly baggy trousers and the promise of good copy trotting along obediently in his wake.

If he isn’t almost choking on a piece of chicken, crashing his bike or running out of petrol on the M50 – as he did on Wednesday on his way to a team meeting – he is tearing it up on the pitch when that couldn’t-give-a-damn demeanour morphs into one of an Action Man.

He was at it again two weeks ago, buzzing around enemy territory as Dublin downed Meath to claim a seventh Leinster title in eight years, undaunted by his departure from midfield and into a 14 jersey that belied his actual role in the half-forward line.

“It was probably the worst-kept secret that I wasn’t full-forward,” he laughed.

“I was there for about five minutes but I am used to attacking as a midfielder anyway and it eased me of a few of the defensive responsibilities.

“It leaves me space to go forward.”

I am happy to be anywhere on the pitch. I played centre-forward for Ballyboden for years and for UCD so it isn’t exactly a whole new thing for me even if it is for Dublin.”

He’ll be at it again today. When referee Cormac Reilly throws in the ball at 7pm, Macauley will be standing within spitting distance of the Laois goal but it won’t be long before he heeds the call of Croke Park’s wide open spaces.

Such versatility can serve a man well in the Dublin setup, as he has found after his two-wheel mishap at the start of the summer cost him his place in the starting line-up for the championship opener against Louth.

With Denis Bastick and Eamonn Fennell impressing in his absence, Macauley had to force his case with a starring role off the bench against Wexford before Pat Gilroy tasked him with the roving brief in the provincial decider.

“I might try my hand at goalkeeper as well, kick Cluxton out of there.

“That’s it, the competition is huge all over the pitch. When I was injured and the two lads came into midfield they did a great job there and you just couldn’t move them. You need that.

“Teams won’t go anywhere if you don’t have that sort of competition. You see with Kevin [McManamon] not starting how good the competition is. He was man of the match the first two games and now he can’t get the start. That’s how close it is for a starting spot. It really is a whisker or a kick or two in training.”

Such strength in depth is just one of the reasons why Dublin are expected to account for an admittedly improving Laois side this weekend. With the winners of Down and Mayo to follow, the perception is that the draw has parted like the Red Sea for the reigning champions.

“Aw, I don’t know how many clichés I can give you when I say this but we’re only looking at one game at a time.

“Laois have been far too good to look past. I know the bigger names are in the other side but we’re definitely not going to look at that. How many [clichés] did I get in there? Two was it?”

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