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McCarthy Announces His Retirement From Rugby

McCarthy Announces His Retirement From Rugby

Leinster have tonight confirmed the disappointing news that Mike McCarthy has played his last game of professional rugby. The Ireland lock has been forced to retire due to severity of an elbow injury.

The 2016 Six Nations campaign was the beginning of the end for Mike McCarthy. It is just that he didn’t know it. And that’s what makes it hard to accept. One of Joe Schmidt’s starting locks in the opening fixtures against Wales and against France, he wasn’t to know then what he knows now; that it would be his international swansong.

It was February 13, 2016 in the Stade de France in a game that Ireland would lose by a single point. McCarthy lined out in the number four jersey, Devin Toner wore number five. A concussion suffered in the 57th minute saw him withdrawn and he would play no further part.

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Flash forward 13 months to the RDS and a GUINNESS PRO12 match against the Scarlets – Leinster’s semi-final opponents this Friday – and he is introduced for Hayden Triggs in the 59th minute. He played out the remaining 21 minutes with a typically physical display as Leinster put the Welshmen to the sword.

Walking off the pitch that night, he was happy with his contribution and was already looking forward to the clash with Cardiff Blues at the RDS a few weeks later. But there it ends.

The 35-year-old made over 300 professional appearances in a career that started 17 seasons ago off the bench against Sale Sharks. Closer to home it has been 19 caps in the green of Ireland, 160 in two spells out west with Connacht and 75 in the blue of Leinster. But, sadly, Mike will play no more.

“It’s just sad because I’ve played my last game without really knowing it, without really being able to savour it or take it in. To enjoy it more,” he told the Leinster Rugby website.

“That decision has been taken away from me and it’s difficult because even random things like I’m a dad and you do think of moments like bringing your daughter onto the pitch for a lap, maybe even with a trophy, and that’s no longer an option so like I said it’s just difficult right now to get my head around.

“For 17 years I’ve been playing the game I love, running around tearing into people and having people tear into you. How do you replace that? You probably can’t but it’s trying to get my head around it all.”

McCarthy had already been ruled out for the season through injury, but one injury has turned out worse than first realised, as he explains: “Unfortunately I had been ruled out for the season anyway with a back and an elbow issue and to be honest the back injury has been dealt with, but there was also an elbow injury in training and that injury has left the elbow in a pretty bad way. So it’s come to this. You have to listen to the medics, you have to back their advice.”

He makes light of the issue but it is clear that he isn’t able to straighten his right arm and it may need surgery. That means he will not be able to fulfill a summer move to French club Narbonne and it has brought an unexpected change of immediate plans for himself, wife Jess and young daughter Lola.

While the finality of the decision has caught him off guard, McCarthy is able to look back fondly on a rugby life well lived. “I look back on it and my first cap in Murrayfield with Ireland stands out but it wasn’t so much the cap, tt was more about having my wife and my mum there,” he explained.

“Two people that have supported me so much so it felt like I was running out for them and representing all that we had come through. A great day. I suppose another that stands out is winning the PRO12 in the RDS with Leinster in my first season. You couldn’t have asked for a better day for rugby, blue skies, a full RDS and we put on a complete performance against a really good Glasgow team.

“Before that I was lucky enough to win a Premiership medal and a Challenge Cup medal as well with Wasps. So, look, I am 35 and able to look back on a career that I am hugely proud of and I have achieved things. So I am fortunate in that regard.”

He added: “I couldn’t have done it without my wife Jess and my mum. It’s been me and my mum our whole lives and she has certainly been more than a mum to me, she’s been a role model to me growing up.

“I’d like to thank her and Jess hugely and little Lola just completes that little family that we have. So, yeah, it was nice at the recent Leinster Awards Ball to bring my mum and thank her publicly for all that she has done for me.”

To read the full Leinster interview with Mike on his retirement, click here.