James McCarthy was worried media would get him gouging rap

Dublin's James McCarthy: It was dealt with at the time.

Dublin defender James McCarthy admits he was concerned about being pursued for eye gouging last month despite insisting he had ‘no intention of doing anything’ wrong.

McCarthy received a second yellow following a scuffle in Dublin’s Allianz League Division 1 win over Donegal and picture stills afterwards showed his fingers making contact with the eye area of Martin McElhinney as they grappled.

It was suggested that GAA disciplinary officials might have taken retrospective action, similar to the one-match ban handed to team-mate Philly McMahon after an incident in last year’s All-Ireland final involving Kieran Donaghy, though that never materialised.

McCarthy played with McElhinney for Dublin City University and insisted it wasn’t his intention to cause any injury but he was concerned a suspension might have been prompted by the strong media interest.

“Look, some of the stuff you hear, it’s not nice to hear,” said McCarthy. “I had no intention of doing anything (wrong) there. I know Martin for years. I played football with him for years. I have really good time for Martin. I was a bit surprised. Slowed down, it looked worse than it was. But it’s in the past now. It was dealt with at the time.

“At times, you might think, because of some of the stuff that’s being said, ‘I might be in a bit of bother here’. But I had had no intention of doing anything wrong there. It can be frustrating, but more for your family. Your mother might be at home and she’d see some of it but I’m tough skinned myself. I wouldn’t get too upset about it.

“It was one of those scuffles. They happen all the time. That photo that was going around probably didn’t look great but there was nothing in it.”

McCarthy accepts such a strong media focus goes with the territory as a Dublin footballer and it is something which will only intensify as they begin their challenge shortly for back-to-back All-Ireland titles.

Dublin are four-in-a-row league champions since last weekend and they will bid for a fourth All-Ireland win in six seasons this summer.

“There’s a lot of hype around,” said McCarthy, who admitted members of the public regularly engage him for football chat. “You don’t want to be rude to people either. People come up and ask how are Dublin going and I try and talk away to them, ‘things are going so-so,’ whatever it is.

“I try not to be rude. They have their best wishes for you and for the team. I don’t try and avoid it. You just try and stay in your bubble as best you can. .

“I wouldn’t be trying to keep any sort of low profile in fairness. Kids on the road would be knocking on your door to ask you to kick a ball or whatever so I wouldn’t try and keep away. I’d more try and stay away from reading papers at certain stages.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there. I just try and stay out of it. But lads have different ways of dealing with it. There’s lads who read papers every day, no problem with them so it’s whatever works for you.”

McCarthy’s form has been strong so far this year and if Dublin are to retain the All-Ireland he’ll probably be a central figure. First up is the Leinster championship and having lost just one game in 12 years, it seems a certainty Dublin will cruise through that competition again.

McCarthy insists, generally speaking, the current championship model isn’t fit for purpose and should be overhauled, mainly to avoid the large gaps between games.

“Everyone wants some form of different championship,” he claimed. “I think, ideally, you should be playing every two weeks come the summer. They’re the best months to be playing. I think you see how good the league is. They’re great games we get. You’d love to see that when the summer comes.

“Even talking to the hurling lads, Kilkenny only played, I think, four matches last year and they have five and six-week gaps between matches. Crazy.”

* McCarthy was speaking at the launch of Cúl Heroes, official trading cards and magazine of the GAA/GPA.

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