Not for the first time, Michael Darragh Macauley has his audience of journalists laughing.
Not for the first time, the Ballyboden St Enda’s man has them eating out of his hands.
Mention of Castlebar’s final appearance two years ago brings the following response: “They’ve been here and done it, and they know what they’re talking about.
“There’s no doubt about it — we’re the small fish in this pond. But small fish can bite as well, so we’ll see what happens.
“I love a good metaphor, don’t I? I’m trying to give you headlines here!”
Macauley last year bought a home closer to Dublin city centre but he’s been around Ballyboden’s catchment area enough to know how today’s game has captured the imagination of so many.
“I don’t know if you’ve been around Rathfarnham at all but everyone has bought into this, every kind of shop owner, everyone who owns a cafe, anyone selling pints, everyone’s trying to get their two cents out of this.
“It’s great. Everyone’s buying into it in a good way.
“It’s a really positive vibe around the place and it’s cool to be a part of.
“The Dublin thing is a sprint, May to September is a sprint. This is a marathon.
“We’ve been going since April last year and we’re still going now coming into March.
“What’s the part of a marathon where you hit the wall? The 11th mile? We’ve had a few of them alright but that’s made the journey all the more enjoyable.
It’s crazy we’ve gotten this far but we’re still riding the ship and we’re sailing it along nicely.”
It’s been a while since Macauley was an underdog but he’s had plenty of occasions in the blue and white stripes of Ballyboden.
“It’s crap when you go onto the Dublin team and someone says you’re going to win the game. There’s no fun in that. It’s great coming on and someone writes you off.
“That’s when you get a challenge and enjoy it.”
Conal Keaney recently admitted he was surprised so many of his team-mates have not yet played in Croke Park. In his own imitable way, Macauley will be acquainting them to a venue he knows so well.
“I’ll be kicking them out of my seat when I get in there — ‘that’s where I sit, that’s where Bernard Brogan sits’. I have experience playing but there are seven or eight lads there who have played in front of 50,000.
“All the hurlers, there’s young lads there that have played minor so there’s a huge amount of experience.
“But if I can do anything and put an arm around a lad and give him advice then I’m more than willing to give it. If he needs a kick up the arse, I’ll give it to him as well.
“He doesn’t have to ask twice for that!”
Yet this is an alien experience for even Macauley. “I’ve been in Croke Park on Paddy’s Day the last few years, eating my prawn sandwiches up in the corporate boxes!
“So it’s going to be nice to be down on the pitch for once.”
Trusting instincts is paramount. “When we go out and play Mayo, every one of the Dublin players will know everything about all the Mayo players.
“And, likewise, every Mayo player will know everything about every Dublin player. But when we go out here, it’s not saying — we won’t do our homework we will do our homework and they will likewise.
“But there’s a big sense of the unknown as well— a big sense of let’s just go out and play football, which is going to make for better football.
“There’s less cat and mouse stuff, and more football being played.”
Macauley would strike you as more effervescent than arrogant and the 29-year-old’s happy with his own preparations.
“I’m very smart with how I manage my workload. I don’t just run up mountains every morning for the craic and take photos and put them on Instragram!
“I’m smart about the way I train and the way I strength-train and how I do my cardio training and how my flexibility and movement stuff and I do a balance.
“So I’d be smart about that and I have absolutely no excuse in the wide world as to why I don’t perform with my very best on Paddy’s Day.”
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