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'No-One With Half A Brain Is Getting Caught Up In Their Own Success'

'No-One With Half A Brain Is Getting Caught Up In Their Own Success'

Granted, starting a piece with a wildly inaccurate Eamon Dunphy soundbite usually kills interest before it had been earned, but stick with us on this.

You may remember that Dunphy was last year asked about the Dublin footballers, and responded by saying that they'll "never be loved", putting it partly down to the fact that they "don't give candid interviews".

This is, of course, wrong.

Exhibit A: Michael Darragh MacAuley.

The scene:  we're about twenty minutes into a media roundtable to plug the Fanta Sandstorm 5k beach run.

A question tumbles his way on his taste in music, and what's on his pre-game playlist.

Pre-match tunes... Tupac is definitely on the playlist. I get asked a lot about Tupac! In the interest of balance, I also like Biggie. Just in case any of the Biggie crew are going to come for me. Somebody asked me before why Ireland is always on Tupac’s side of the rivalry?

Do ye remember that? Ireland was always on the side of Tupac. I don’t know why. I thought maybe because he fought against the Establishment, and we have that colonial background. Sorry, what the fuck am I talking about?

Oh yeah. Tupac likes Fanta. I can vouch for that.

Tupac’s on the playlist, everything’s on the playlist.  I’ve a weird taste in music. I was listening to Guru Baha on the way here who is an Indian preacher. So you don’t know what’s going to be on the playlist. [A confession on our part - we are nowhere near cool enough to know if this is spelled correctly. Please get in touch to correct us

Q: What's your running song of choice? What gets you up that hill? 

Ooooh. ….I think about this stuff too much. I can’t recklessly throw out my favourite album or song.

Let me see….

Thirty seconds pass

.

MacAuley whips out his phone, and starts scrolling through Spotify. 

I’m overthinking this, amn’t I?

How about….

....

....Somebody Else’s Guy, by Jocelyn Brown. Boom.

And on that note….

MacAuley plays the song.

This is a serious tune.

Wait for the beat lads. Just ten seconds, and we’ll go back to Fanta.

Wait for it...

MacAuley rhythmically bangs his hands on the table

...Yeah, that’s it.

We’d better go back to talking about Fanta.

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*****

McAuley's 2017 was smithereened by injury, struggling with knee and foot injuries.

I lost track myself. But yeah there were issues there. I was just unlucky. it’s something I haven’t forgotten. It wasn’t an enjoyable championship for me, but I’m hoping to right that wrong this summer. I was training like a lunatic and being as productive as a human can be. I was doing everything so that’s all I could do. Every athlete has to deal with injuries.

I haven’t broken a fingernail this year so I hope it stays that way. I was running on a treadmill a while ago, thinking about all my mates who are injured. I really appreciated being able to run on that treadmill; I had a bit of mindfulness on the treadmill, thinking, 'this is deadly'.

You get little moments like that.

Those little moments sedimented into another National League medal this spring, with MacAuley sloughing off his injury problems to play a pivotal role for the Dubs at midfield. A winter playing Super League basketball with Eanna "kept the belly off", stiffened his sinew and tightened his legs for the league. Timely, too, for Jim Gavin given that James McCarthy has been forced to cover the half-back line in the absences of Jack McCaffrey and Cian O'Sullivan.

"I wasn’t planning on playing at as high a level as I did, I was originally going to play some social ball and ended up playing to a pretty high level and training pretty competitively for the off-season. It took away from my social life, but it’s helped going back to play football this year".

While MacAuley's winter benefits Gavin, the Dublin manager had no input into the decision. "That’s a personal decision. Dublin controls enough of the decisions in our life nine to ten months a year, so in fairness, if lads want to jump out a plane a couple of times a day, they can. It’s whatever you want to do. Lads do their own thing, and play their own sports. A few play soccer, there are a couple of badminton stars in there".

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After a winter on the court, McAuley spent April playing with Balllyboden. While the GAA's rules allowed county teams to train and play challenge matches at the beginning of each week, Dublin didn't train together at all. "We’ve had a full break and I haven’t seen any of the lads’ ugly mugs for a month. Which is good, because I’ll see them more than my own hands over the next while. We’ve come back with a fresh impetus and are able to go back to the trenches again and start digging".

Perhaps it's a manifestation of Dublin's by-now legendary focus on the next game - Jim Gavin's pre-season incantation that Dublin are only guaranteed two games a year often rings hollow given that Dublin haven't lost a provincial game since 2010 - but MacAuley hasn't spent too long worrying about the specifics of the Super 8s.

I couldn’t be more honest, I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I keep hearing about the Super 8s thing, and I know there’s an extra game?

The FM104 dude was just explaining that. So if we got out of Leinster…and if we lose Leinster?

I’m currently, eh, unaware of the Super 8 structure. But I’m sure it will be a fun time for all involved…

Look, lads just want to play games. If you called it the Super 50s, lads would be delighted because they just want to play games.

More games means more happy players, and that’s all good. Three and four weeks is too long to wait to play. You see LeBron James playing every three nights, and he’s not bad at basketball.

While there is a lot about Dublin shrouded in mystery, their po-faced reverence for "the process" is as real as it is wearing. A photo taken in the Dublin dressing room by Diarmuid Connolly after last year's All-Ireland final offered a glimpse of one of the Dubs' motivational poster, that read "success will follow you precisely because you have forgotten to think about it".

The aphorism is practically applied.

There’s a man that’s done his homework. Read me that again. ….Deep. That’s my first time hearing that.

No-one with half a brain is getting caught up in their own success. Most lads that have been around the block have succeeded and failed enough times to know how fickle that is. I don’t think that’s an issue in the team.

Maybe it has been at some point but it’ll be stamped out pretty quickly by management and players. It’s not something that’ll be a problem. We don’t overly-focus on the success we have had, it’s about building for the future.

[It might have been a problem] back in the days gone by, when we used to walk to training in our bare feet. But you only have to be a percent off. We keep winning these finals by a point and the narrowest margins, and if there is a hint of vulnerability and relying on days gone by... you’re gone. We have to be aware enough to spot that. It’s about that, being able to say ‘hold on, there are few here resting on their laurels'.

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There is no doubt that the Dubs follow this creed slavishly: Diarmuid Connolly briefly forgot how many All-Irelands he had won while celebrating last September's success against Mayo.

"I didn't see that", says MacAuley. "That’s 100% genuine. You can’t think on it. I doubt Diarmuid is checking his own Wikipedia page too often. That’s a sign of someone who is focused on the task at hand".

Before this year's task hovers into sharp view, MacAuley spent the final week of April in Kenya with Concern. MacAuley's a teacher, and since returning, has set up a link between his own class and one of the schools he visited.

Concern asked me to be an ambassador with them. I had a brilliant experience. We’ve all seen the documentaries but I’ve never been able to see first-hand what’s happening over there.

People will throw a few quid in a box and wonder where is this money going, but I can vouch for Concern. You can see where the money goes. It’s madness; it’s a different world.

To see mums and kids sleeping in dumps, it’s wrong. Concern are working with the poorest of the poor, and they are doing a really effective job at making a difference.

I ended up running a link programme between my class and a class over there, and we are going back and forth with letters.

I wish someone opened my eyes as a kid. You’re so self-involved, worrying your Playstation game isn’t as good as your neighbour’s. Without preaching to them - because the kids I teach are young - but I don’t think there is too young an age at which to be exposed to what life is like on the other side of the world.

So they are writing letters asking kids in the slums things like, ‘Can you add me on Xbox Live’ and ‘What’s your name on Fortnite’. They don’t know. It’s really interesting that they ask those questions, I told them to be as honest as they can.

That’s not their prerogative over there, but they’ll get responses and explain what their prerogatives are. I think that’s really interesting.

A big thing that I noticed is how much they appreciate school. Education isn’t a right over there for a lot of them and they love being in school. Ask 90% of kids over here will say ‘Ugh, school on a Monday’.

That was once of the things that struck me.

Michael Darragh MacAuley was speaking to launch this year’s Fanta Sandstorm – taking place in Dublin and Kerry. For more details, see Fanta.com.

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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