Leading by Example: Kieran McArdle

By Sarah Griffin | Aug 18, 2022

Kieran McArdle doesn’t care about the flash and frills of it all. Underrated, underappreciated, whatever you want to call him, it doesn’t matter to him. His focus has remained the same throughout his entire pro career.

“It’s all about winning a championship, that’s what it’s always been about. An MVP title doesn’t matter to me, especially at this point in my career. I’m in my ninth professional season now and I still haven’t gotten that championship win under my belt.”

The versatile veteran attackman has been turning heads this season and building an impressive MVP campaign with his play for the Waterdogs. Third in the league in both assists and points, in his ninth professional season, McArdle continues to climb the all-time ranks, sitting at 13th all-time in goals (241) and points (382), and 14th in assists (140).  

While all those numbers sound nice, they’re not of concern to McArdle.

“He’s got this old school mentality and work ethic to him,” said Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan. “He’s an understated personality who carries himself with humility, and I think that’s part of what makes him so great. He’s always been elite, from college to now, and he continues to get better and grind away.” 

Looking at McArdle’s numbers and accolades over the years, it feels silly to see him regarded as “underrated” not only in the PLL, but throughout his entire professional career. Every team he’s been on he’s been a key offensive component, consistently producing. Whether it’s goals, assists, or everything in between that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, there’s never been a season where he's faltered. 

“People underestimate his competitiveness,” said now four-year teammate Steven DeNapoli. “There’s this ‘underrated stigma’ around him, but he’s the same player he’s always been. He might not get the flash, but his entire career has been solid lacrosse at a high level with a team-first mentality.”

Though he may be an attackman, DeNapoli compared McArdle’s game mindset to that of a short-stick defensive midfielder. 

“If you look at a score sheet you can see he has the ability to shoot and pass, but there’s so much more to his game than that. He goes against the grain, he’s got that short-stick d-middie mentality. He does all the intangible things and that’s what sets him apart. Whether it’s running through a tough check, battling for a ground ball, he does it all. He’s got such a toughness to him…it’s not something you often see with attackmen,” joked DeNapoli. 

It’s that hard-nosed mentality that’s helped McArdle lead this Waterdogs team to their five-game win streak after falling 0-3 to start the season. 

In the first three games of the year, McArdle was sharing time on attack as the ‘Dogs tried to find their footing battling injuries and an overall slow start. He recorded two points total in the first two games, one in each contest.

With fellow attackman Michael Sowers out in Week 3 versus the Chrome on Long Island, it was just McArdle, Ryan Brown, and Ethan Walker rostered on attack that week. McArdle made up for Sowers’ absence with a seven-point performance (3G, 4A). Though the Waterdogs ultimately lost 17-14, it seemed to be a turning point in the season not only for McArdle, but for the entire team.

From that point on, McArdle’s recorded at least three points in each game, as well as another seven-point performance versus the Cannons in Dallas. In that same time frame, it’s no coincidence the Waterdogs went from 0-3 to 5-4. 

“His teammates trust him when the ball is in his stick, it’s like this calming presence,” remarked Copelan. “You feel confident when he has the ball.”

A do-it-all attackman, McArdle’s so tough to contain because he forces defenses to make the hard decisions. On-ball, he’s a persistent and skilled dodger who can outsmart his matchups. He’s rarely hesitant to rip a shot at the net if given the chance, with a career shooting percentage of 33%. 

The Waterdogs are the only team this season to hand the Whipsnakes an L, and an incredible performance from McArdle headlined that victory. Trailing 8-7 entering the fourth quarter, McArdle scored three goals in the final frame to will the Waterdogs to a win. Widely considered the best defense in the league, the Whips could not suppress McArdle. 

“You could see especially in those late stages of the game, he wanted the ball in his stick,” said DeNapoli. “Yeah he’s this great passer, but it’s games like that that would give him my MVP vote. It goes to show he can take the team and carry it on his back if need be.”  

Of course, on an attack alongside Sowers and Brown, as well as shooters like Connor Kelly running out of the box, defenses don’t tend to slide to McArdle. Instead, they allow him to feed his teammates, and boy does he take advantage.

The Waterdogs’ offense has created more assisted shots than any other team in the league (21.6 per game). McArdle’s team-leading 19 assists has accounted for nine different goal scorers this season for the Waterdogs. 

Outside of the usual suspects in Sowers, Brown, Kelly, and Ryan Conrad, McArdle’s also set up rookies Walker and Jack Hannah, as well as Mikie Schlosser, Zach Currier, and Charlie Kitchen for the finish. 

“He always has his head up, he’s always looking to make a play,” said DeNapoli. “You see it on attack, and you see it in our transition game. He never gives up on a play and the team is successful as a result of it.” 

“I guess I just have a ‘never back down’ mentality,” explained McArdle. “I treat every situation like a one-on-one battle. Whether it’s beating my matchup when dodging, making the finish at the net, finding that guy cutting to make the feed to, or winning a ground ball, I never give up on a play.”

One of the veterans on this team, while he might not always be the most vocal in the locker room or huddle, when he talks, you can guarantee everyone is listening.

“He picks moments when he’s vocal and in those moments he has the attention of everyone in the room,” said Copelan. “He’s a great role model for the younger guys on this team. He mentors guys like Sowers, Walker, and Hannah and really leads by example. I have a lot of respect for him not just as a player, but a person.”

At the end of the day, any praise, any accolades, any MVP votes, they don’t matter. An understated personality as his coach described, McArdle lives up to his team-first reputation with all sights set on the Waterdogs’ playoff push ahead. So go ahead, call him underrated, call him “slept on,” Kieran McArdle’s focus remains on one thing: winning.