Michael Darragh Macauley ‘in better stead’ after season of frustration

Michael Darragh Macauley & Brendan Kealy Photo:INPHO/Ryan Byrne

He’s one of the most engaging interviewees in GAA but Michael Darragh Macauley is invoking his inner Francis Urquhart.

Queries about whether he tore his cruciate last year are met with answers along the lines of the House of Cards protagonist’s infamous “You might very well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Maybe it’s because his manager Jim Gavin at the time denied Macauley ruptured his ACL or that it’s something the player simply wants to move on from. Either way, it’s unusual for him to be so circumspect. “Don’t know, don’t know,” he replies about the injury.

What Macauley isn’t nearly as reluctant to comment on, though, is how much last season affected him, doing enough to make the All-Ireland match-day panel, only not to feature. “It was frustrating. I just tried to see how I felt. I wasn’t happy walking out of Croke Park that day, as much as I was delighted for Dublin and my mates.

It’s a hugely frustrating experience that you can work so hard all year and it’s not how you dreamed of the year finishing up. It wasn’t a bitter sentiment, it just didn’t work out for me. But all the effort that I put in going up to that game is now being put into this year.

“I didn’t burst myself for nothing. I have absolutely no regrets in how I managed myself and how I pushed myself in trying to come back last year. But I suppose it’s put me in better stead for this year.”

In 2014, Colm Cooper was part of the All-Ireland-winning panel following his cruciate nightmare earlier that year but didn’t have much regard for his Celtic Cross considering he didn’t play. Macauley felt the same as his, also a fifth medal.

Yeah, I felt I didn’t contribute. Maybe if that was my first year playing for Dublin, it might have been a different story. But I suppose, in the place that I was in my career, not playing in the All-Ireland semi-final, final was not where I wanted to be. So, no, the medal doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It’s not a bitterness thing, it’s just the way it was.

Macauley had a few conversations with his old Ballyboden neighbour Gavin towards the end of last year. “I decided to go again and you can’t half-arse do these things. If you’re committing to playing for Dublin, it’s all in.” Returning to basketball with Men’s Super League team Eanna provided Macauley with the platform for a fine league campaign.

“It just kind of kept the belly at bay and kept me in good shape. I went back playing social ball, just a bit of craic with a few of the lads and I was loving it. It was going really well and I ended up taking it up a notch. It was meant to be my down-time from competitive sport but I ended up going to play semi-professional ball there, which I really enjoyed.

“Without a doubt, it makes your January a lot easier and if you get your January a lot easier, it makes your league a lot easier. If you get your league a lot easier, hopefully it’s going to kick on and make for an easier championship.”

Macauley also found time recently to visit Kenya with Concern. The Scoil Maelruain primary school teacher has set up a link between his class and one there. “I was on dumps with 20,000 people who work and live off a dump. And kids sleeping in rubbish. It’s just…not right. They were handing me a mask to put over my face. But I was in their home. The place stank. It was the worst thing I’ve ever smelled in my life. And there was vultures everywhere eating all the different leftover bits of meat. But I was walking into their house. It was like if you invite me into your home and say ‘this place stinks’ and put a mask over my face. You couldn’t do it.”

Inter-county footballers can give back more, he feels, and at home. “I think it’s important. I think we have the scope to do a lot more as well. I think that particularly the kids Dublin, it would be really nice to be role models to them. And to be accessible to them. So that’s something we’re looking into more — and I am personally as well.

“A lot of children, particularly in less well-off areas of Dublin, they have no male role models to look up to. It would be amazing to set up a structure whereby kids can look at a player who they might look up to and say, ‘That’s what I want to do when I’m older’.”

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