Footballer of the Year nominee Michael Darragh Macauley says a mid-championship team-talk from golfing icon Pádraig Harrington was a powerful motivational tool.
Three-time Major winner Harrington met Jim Gavin and his Dublin panel at a city hotel last summer during their run to All-Ireland title success. Macauley, whose family home is just yards from Harrington’s in Rathfarnham, revealed how the Ryder Cup legend spoke passionately about how he prepares for big tournaments, deals with outside influences and works with the media.
“He’s a busy man so it was great that he agreed to do it,” said Macauley. “He has so much going on but he talked so passionately about everything that he does, about the psychological side of his preparations, all of that. It was powerful.
“He talked about his dealings with the media. The media don’t get their hands on him too often. Basically, he doesn’t read anything into what is written or said about him. He was making the point that if you’re not in form, you don’t want to be reading about it in the papers. In the same regard, if you’re playing well, you know you’re playing well, you don’t need anyone telling you.
“He was talking about shutting off the outside influences. It sounds basic enough but he leaves absolutely no stone unturned to make sure it all clicks into place and that’s what he was kind of suggesting we do. Personally, I took a lot out of it.”
Harrington once marked Dessie Farrell at Croke Park and is the son of Cork football legend Paddy Harrington. So he would have been well aware of Macauley’s GAA profile.
But he may not have realised the barrel-chested 27-year-old sitting before him in the Dubs group was once a goofy kid who had begged him for golf balls at his family home.
“Pádraig’s home is only four doors up from me and I used to pester him when I was a kid,” revealed Macauley. “I’d call into him on the way home from school, ask for free golf stuff, golf balls, whatever.
“Most of the time he wasn’t there and his dad would chat with us. He was very good with the kids. He’d bring us in. One of the rooms in the house had a little putting green in it and about 50 different putters. I used to love going in there and taking a few putts.”
There is a story going around the area that a group of kids recently approached Harrington to ask for an autograph. Just to be doubly sure, they asked a slightly bemused Harrington if he definitely was Michael Darragh Macauley.
With two All-Ireland winners’ medals in his back pocket, Macauley has clearly joined the group of local legends. It is an impressive bunch that also includes the Stynes brothers and, as Macauley pointed out, several international basketball players.
“There’s a bit of history been made in the area all right,” said Macauley. “It all kind of started for me in primary school, Ballyroan, when I got my first taste of sport.”
Secondary school took Macauley to rugby heartland and he was a talented basketball player too, though he eventually settled on Gaelic football. His barnstorming, all action style of play is unique and has proven hugely important to Dublin this year, leaving him as the bookmakers’ favourite to pip Stephen Cluxton to the Footballer of the Year award.
The outcome of the vote on that issue will be known in a week, though Macauley is getting neither excited nor agitated about it.
“I’m not getting anything about it,” he said. “I have too much on my plate at the moment to be even thinking about it. Look, it should be a good night anyway at the All Stars.”
If he gets the award, the list of those in his appreciation speech will be a long one. From his family, naturally, to perhaps Harrington and definitely Bernard Dunne.
“I’ve got a lot of benefit this year from talking with Bernard Dunne, he’s been in working with Dublin,” said Macauley. “No more than Harrington, Bernard got to the top of his game as an individual sportsman. If he has an off day as a boxer he finds himself on the canvas so he’s deadly serious about what he does and the stuff he tells you.
“Personally, I’m just trying to get the most out of my Gaelic football career. Nobody knows how long it’s going to keep going. Lads that were around in 2011 presumed they’d be here in 2013. Some aren’t.”
n Macauley was speaking at the launch of Parcel Motel’s send and return service, a convenient, secure and round-the-clock service for online shoppers. See parcelmotel.com
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