McCarthy wary of Leinster Long’ shot

by Stephen Findlater

James McCarthy expects Longford to rattle Dublin in their Leinster semi-final in a novel pairing between the reigning champions and massive underdogs.

The midlanders qualified for a first provincial semi-final since 1988 after beating Meath on Sunday and few will fancy Denis Connerton’s side on June 10 at Croke Park.

When the teams last met during the 2015 championship, a group then managed by Dublin native Jack Sheedy were beaten by Dublin by 27 points.

Longford finished third in Division 3 of the National Football league this term and might well have been promoted had they overcome Armagh.

In fact, many feel that the Leinster side should’ve won the game, and there was controversy as the Orchard County were awarded a questionable free out before Ethan Rafferty’s 68th-minute winning point.

“The Leinster championship is always one of the big competitions we go after every year,” Ballymun Kickhams man McCarthy said at the announcement of AIB’s extension of their five-year Backing Club and County initiative.

“The biggest respect you can give a team is to go out and do your best and play your best out there, and that’s what we try to do every day.

“It will be no different in two weeks’ time and you see Longford had a great win against Meath, and a great league, and should’ve gone up to Division 2.

“They had a controversial loss in one of their games and there was something about a late point in Armagh, I think. They’re a coming team and you can see there’s a buzz about them, so they will definitely give us a good rattle in a few weeks’ time.”

McCarthy has now collected five All-Ireland titles, and the 28-year-old could well add to that tally in the coming seasons.

Despite collecting so much silverware, the Dubs continue to set the tempo in Gaelic football, and McCarthy tries to explain their ravenous hunger.

“When I think back to when we first started winning All-Irelands with Dublin (in 2011), the following year we came back and lost. Then we came back in ’13 and won, and then the next year we lost.

“We couldn’t figure out how to be more consistent, and how to go back-to-back. Once you win one, you want to win two and three, and you’re really hungry and mad for it.

“It’s so enjoyable because you’re playing with guys you’re really close with, and you’re going playing these big games that are going down to the wire, and it’s very hard feeling to describe, those moments.

“It’s such a powerful feeling to play with a team that works so hard together, and it’s a great journey you’re on.

“It goes by in the blink of an eye; I’ve been playing for seven or eight years now and I just can’t believe how fast it’s going. So it’s about enjoying it as much as you can because it will be over soon enough.”

Last weekend, Dublin ran up a 23-point win over Wicklow in the Leinster quarter-final at O’Moore Park.

Dublin had 11 different scorers and the outcome was decided by the break, following late first half goals from Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan, and in the second half Dublin introduced subs with Conor McHugh and Colm Basquel both getting on the scoresheet.

Paul Flynn also got championship action under his belt after missing the entire league campaign following a back operation.

Dublin took a 18-point lead, 4-13 to 1-4, into the half-time interval after concluding the opening half with two late goals in front of an attendance of 11,786.

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