Athletes do their best to build their defenses against balls that inevitably come their way, but no shield is fully effective.
ack Carty turned 30 last month – and the Connacht captain has endured all the ups and downs that any career in the professional ranks can inflict on you.
However, when a legendary person like Ronan Ogara took aim, the native of Athlone was forced to take notice.
After working his way back up the international ranks and winning his first title in three years during the Six Nations Championship, Carty had reason to believe things were starting to go his way.
But towards the end of that tournament, O’Gara pointed out what he saw as the inconsistency in Karti’s performance.
“My lasting memory of the Six,” he said, “is that Jacques Carty was first for Connacht who went to Edinburgh and it was 56-8.”
“Staff and coaches look at this (performance) and this shakes up everything about your environment and your culture and what you stand for.
“And then you’ll go, ‘OK, the test level is a higher level and I’m the better half of this team that went to the first leg and got 50 points.
“It’s a very tough message, but every game has its value; especially when you’re not the incumbent – every game counts. The outer half is the team driver.”
Karti heard the message loud and clear.
“When I saw it, I was first hit enough that I’m actually looking forward to ROG,” the outside half admitted.
“I suppose you have to take a level of maturity from him – and instead of pointing fingers at anyone else, look at him.
“The Edinburgh match was a disappointment, but I would look at it and say how poorly dozens of others performed in that circuit they weren’t directed at.
“But, yeah, it hurt enough when he said it was okay.
“It’s one of those things, it comes with the area, I think.
“I’m obviously hurt, momentarily, and obviously I had to look inside, and say is what he’s saying true?
“And when I look back at Edinburgh’s performance, yes, that could have been true. So I had to take what he said and look at my game, and look at my peers around me.”
“There were 23 players that day who did really poorly. He comes with the territory. I’m sure he would have had someone do that to him when he was playing, so it’s an integral part of the job.”
Carte is in a race to be fit for Connacht’s opening match of the season against Alastair tomorrow, a week after he underwent shoulder surgery at the end of last season.
That left him out of the winning streak over New Zealand, but he’s still determined to add his 11 caps and work his way into Andy Farrell’s World Cup plans.
“I’d like to think so,” he said.
“I am also aware that I am 30 years old and they may look at younger players.
“However, I am confident that if we have a good season in Connacht and push towards the finals – and that if I play a prominent role in that, it will be difficult not to be on that call of choice.
“Fortunately he touched the wood, I was lucky with injuries and that’s kind of what I got into in 2019, and that’s how I was able to get in last year again.
“So all I can do is worry about how I look and then hope the rugby gods will join me there.”
With a new synthetic pitch installed at the Sportsground, Connacht faces a very challenging path to opening campaign, with Ulster two weeks away in South Africa before they host Munster and Leinster in Galway.
“We look at it in a completely different way. You play three professional players and then you play with the winners and runners-up,” he said.
“What is the best challenge?
“We have faith there that in our day we can adapt to everyone. It’s about doing it from week to week.
“We’ll talk about it now in terms of consistency, but the players we brought in, the players that came in, and then a little bit of the foreign X-factor that we brought in, there’s a lot of similarity to the 2016 season in the feeling I have now.
“We are really excited about the start of the season.”