“I just want to keep improving and learning from the best” – Paddy McCarthy
November 10, 2023 4:30 pm Paul Cahill
This is an interview that featured in the Leinster Matchday Programme for the BKT United Rugby Championship win against Hollywoodbets Sharks.
Paddy McCarthy has since gone on to win two further caps against the Sharks and Edinburgh, and have been named among the replacements for Sunday’s game against Dragons.
Last Sunday, Paddy McCarthy realized his dream of playing a senior game for Leinster Rugby.
To make it even more special, his family were in the dressing room in Glasgow to present the Academy player with his first cap.
Knowing that the family of every player plays a huge role in their rugby journey, the Leinster management team have begun inviting debutants families into the dressing room to be a part of the cap presentation ceremony.
The McCarthy’s weren’t going to miss it. It’s a moment Paddy won’t forget in a hurry.
“It was cool. I was grateful to have them there. It’s quite unique and it’s a brilliant element that the team have added in.
“Family is a big part of all our journeys and getting to this point. So, it was really nice.”
As the clock struck 50 minutes in Scotstoun on Sunday, Leo Cullen made five changes which included the introduction of Rory McGuire and Paddy McCarthy for their first ever senior Leinster appearance.
“It was something I’ve always aspired to do”, says the Academy prop.
“It was surreal because I grew up as a Leinster fan. So going from watching the team on TV to playing with them, it was a great buzz.
“Unfortunately, we lost the game, but it was a great experience.”
The McCarthy family have seen a lot of milestones recently.
In the last 20 months, Paddy’s older brother, Joe has made his Leinster debut, European debut and Ireland debut.
In that time, Paddy won a Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup with Blackrock College, a Grand Slam with the Ireland U-20’s and reached the final of the Junior Rugby World Cup.
It’s great when the fixtures align nicely, but sometimes, things can clash.
Last month, Paddy played in the pre-season game away to Munster in Cork. It was the very first time Paddy had the opportunity to play a senior game for Leinster.
The McCarthy family knew they couldn’t miss it, but they also had a flight the next morning to watch Joe make his World Cup debut for Ireland against Romania.
Paddy remembers the excitement.
“It was a tight turnaround, but they absolutely love it. My mum, my dad and my brother Andrew get to as many of our games as they can.
“They drove back up after the game in Cork on the Friday night to catch an early Saturday morning flight to France to see Joe play.
“They make a great effort to get to as many games as possible. It’s nice being able to give them these games to go. They’re really supportive.”
Having a supportive family is one thing, but having an older brother to show you the way is another.
Did play time in the back garden ever look similar to a forwards training session?
“Absolutely. There was a lot of that,” says Paddy with a wry smile on his face.
“It’s the same with any brothers. It didn’t matter what we got up to, if it was rugby, wrestling or whatever. That competitiveness prepares you for rugby.
“Theres’s no better sport to be in if you have an older brother.”
Being informed that you will be in a Leinster URC matchday squad for the first time can be daunting.
Did he ask Joe for advice to help calm the pre-game nerves?
“No, I wasn’t too nervous about making my debut.
“I just wanted to do the best job possible. Joe supports me and I do always chat to him about things.
“I definitely learned a lot. There were some bits I could have done better but no debut is perfect.”
The three-year gap between the brothers meant that they haven’t had a chance to play on the same pitch, yet.
With Joe returning from Ireland duty in the next few weeks, is it something that Paddy is thinking about?
“I hope that it will happen. I suppose it is a goal, but I’m not too bothered about it at the moment.
“That type of thing will take care of itself. I’m just trying to get the best out of myself.”
As well as having Joe to lean on for advice, Paddy has had quite a few familiar faces throughout his rugby journey.
Having started his mini rugby with Blackrock College RFC, he soon joined Old Belvedere RFC.
There, he joined a team that also included Fintan Gunne, Gus McCarthy and Conor O’Tighearnaigh. In 2016, that Old Belvo team won the U-13 Metro Cup.
A few years later, the four would play together again. This time, winning a Grand Slam with the Ireland U-20’s.
All four were also awarded Leinster Academy contracts this summer. That’s quite a journey they have been on together.
“That Old Belvo team was great. I loved playing with that team. We won quite a lot of games. It was amazing to go on and play Ireland U-20s with a few of them.
“Gus and I went to Blackrock College and Fintan and Conor went to St Michael’s, but it was brilliant what we achieved last year. “
After the incredible success during the U-20 Six Nations campaign, the squad regrouped for the World Rugby U-20 Championships in South Africa in June.
After drawing with England in their opening game, Ireland picked up big wins over Australia and Fiji to top Pool B.
That set up a semi-final with the hosts, South Africa.
But, while all of that success came on the pitch, there was tragedy off of it.
Greg Oliver, father of squad member Jack passed away in an accident while in South Africa.
Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall also tragically passed away while on their sixth-year holiday in Greece. Both of whom where classmates with a number of the squad in St Michael’s College.
It was an incredibly tough time for the squad, and the rugby community across the country.
The group pulled together and defeated South Africa 31-12 to reach the Junior World Cup final.
After a tough month of rugby, it was one step too far as France claimed gold.
Despite the final day disappointment, Paddy says it is a tournament the whole family will remember.
“It was great having my family come over for the games, but it was tough for everyone with the passing of Greg and when the news of Max and Andrew came through.
“As a team, we were really close. I made some great friends on that trip.”
Ahead of the 2023/24 season, Paddy, along with seven of his Ireland U-20 teammates were awarded their Leinster Academy contracts.
Since returning from South Africa, the eight players have joined up with the senior Leinster squad in UCD.
Training with seasoned professionals can only make you better. That’s exactly how Paddy McCarthy is looking at it.
“I just want to keep improving and learning from the best. I’m just finding my feet in the building to be honest. It’s a competitive environment and we have high expectations of ourselves.
“So, I just really want to get the best out of myself and try to keep getting better.”
Now a capped Leinster Rugby player, Paddy McCarthy is certainly on the right track.