Dublin Star Michael Darragh Macauley: Hard Work Will Always Beat Talent. Attitude Key Factor In Reaching Top, Insists Michael Darragh Macauley
Michael Darragh Macauley took a long and winding road to reaching the pinnacle of success with Dublin, but it was worth the wait.
And that’s why he advises young Dublin hopefuls that perseverance, hard work, and commitment is the recipe for achieving ambitions.
He doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk, and has undertaken a long march through the ranks to put himself front and centre of the Dublin bid to retain the All-Ireland football title.
Ten years ago, although basketball was his first sporting love, Macauley got a call-up to the Dublin minor panel.
From there he graduated to the U-21s in 2006. Next step up was a place on the Dubs senior panel, but that was derailed by a knee injury.
Three years later, the then new Dublin manager Pat Gilroy had Macauley in for a trial, and despite an impressive performance, the Ballyboden St Enda’s man was overlooked.
Finally, in 2010, and following Ballyboden’s triumph in the Dublin club championship – only the club’s second in their history – there was no denying Macauley a place in the senior set-up.
Since then he has gone from being a virtual unknown to becoming one of the best midfielders in the game as he became an integral part of the Dublin success story since 2011. Individual honours included Footballer of the Year for 2013.
This has not happened by accident. Through the years Macauley has seen far more talented players than he show up briefly on the Dublin GAA club and county scene, and then flare out of contention for a variety of reasons.
“Talent is over-rated,” he says. “I’ve always expressed that view from a young age. It’s the way it goes. Hard work will always beat talent. Some lads don’t make it for a variety of reasons.
“When I was growing up, there were guys who were seen as superstars, and a lot of them are nowhere to be seen now. Sometimes it’s down to luck and to the breaks; sometimes it’s about attitude.
“That’s something we try to instill into kids when we’re coaching them in GAA camps. If some of them are a little bit smaller, or maybe not as confident as the next fella, I always try to stress to them that it’s hard work that will get them where they want to go.”
There is an element of ambition required, which is something that Macauley never lacked.
“I always had the height of expectations for myself, and it’s something that you should have. I always backed myself in everything I did. It’s not a cockiness, it’s a self-belief. I was always like that. At 16 I felt I should be on the pitch, so I was always looking to take every opportunity I got.
“When I did get on the pitch, then it was up to me to grab that opportunity.”
Many players drift out of the game, when they don’t make the next level. It could have happened to Macauley when he was stalled at U-21 grade and almost five years elapsed before he got the nod from the Dublin senior management.
Ambition and inner drive kept him going and always with his sights set on playing in the highest grade of football.
“As I said, I’d always back myself to the hilt with that sort of stuff. It’s not because I’m a naturally gifted footballer; it’s because I work harder than the bloke next to me. That’s what’s got me anywhere in life,” says Macauley.
That work rate was evident from the word go, as former Dublin coach Mickey Whelan and ex-Dubs star Tomás ‘Mossy’ Quinn revealed in this newspaper recently.
“He could keep that intensity up for 70 minutes. When things got tight, he could come up with a huge surging run to lift everybody. He has great mental prowess.
“He is a massive character. He contributes as much through his personality as his football,” says Whelan.
Quinn spoke about Macauley’s “huge attitude and belief,” particularly his belief that he will always win his own battle on the pitch.
“That energy and confidence spreads throughout a team into training and team meetings,” Quinn adds.
No doubt Macauley will have plenty to say in the build-up to Sunday’s All-Ireland football semi-final against Donegal.
The Ulster team’s manager Jim McGuinness will have schooled his players in a system designed to blunt the attacking threat of the Dubs, but no matter what plan the Donegal boss devises, it is unlikely to shock the Dubs as much as the 2011 semi-final meeting.
“It was a strange game, something different that as a team we hadn’t seen before, and probably something that a lot of folk watching the match hadn’t seen before.
“It just took a lot of hard work from the lads to deal with that style of football and try and break it down.
“We were definitely very happy to get over the line that day, but it wasn’t easy, and it won’t be easy in the semi-final,” says Macauley.
He’s only 25, so Macauley should have years ahead of him in the Dublin jersey.
If he or any other Dublin footballer has any doubts about what it means to represent the county, they can just take a look at Alan Brogan.
“Alan has shown how much he wants the jersey. He has won everything in the game, and doesn’t need to be there. He has kids and a family, and it’s a huge commitment for him.
“The fact he’s out there training as hard as he is, and the desire that he has to want to get out there, and wear the jersey and play football for the team, is huge for us.