Joe McCarthy takes influence from NFL but committed to Ireland
By Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin
New Ireland star Joe McCarthy has been taking inspiration from American football but has no plans to follow former Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit in chasing an NFL career.
Leinster lock McCarthy has been one of the standout performers of the opening two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations and was named man of the match on his championship debut against France.
The powerful 22-year-old’s eye-catching display in a 38-17 win over Les Bleus came just over a fortnight after 23-year-old Rees-Zammit stunned rugby union by quitting to pursue a dream in the United States.
New York-born McCarthy, who tuned in with international team-mates to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers, said: “I love the defensive side of the game, probably like it more than the attack sometimes.
“They say defence wins championships, so it is good.
“I love getting off the line, I love pressuring teams, love getting them ‘man and ball,’ getting in at rucks. I like watching the defensive players in NFL, like seeing the stuff they do.
“At the moment I like Maxx Crosby from the (Las Vegas) Raiders. I liked JJ Watt (former Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals defensive end) when he played. He is a beat, or was, he is retired now.
“I don’t think I’ll be changing over to the NFL any time soon. I’ll stick with the rugby.”
McCarthy retained his second-row spot for Sunday afternoon’s 36-0 victory over Italy in Dublin as defending Grand Slam champions Ireland backed up their statement success in Marseille.
Following his first Test cap against Australia in the autumn of 2022, he missed last year’s Six Nations due to injury before becoming the youngest member of Andy Farrell’s World Cup squad.
McCarthy admits his elevation at international level has brought increased scrutiny.
“There is way more attention in the Six Nations, you can feel it, much more than club games,” he said.
“It is good, you are getting a lot of nice mentions; you’re trying to block it out and just go back to the process.
“I felt I was ready to go at that stage (in the 2023 Six Nations) but an ankle injury kept me out for a few months. That happens.
“It’s great to get an opportunity now and I am looking forward to it.”
Ireland return to action at home to Wales on February 24th before taking on England and Scotland next month.