Monday 23 October 2017

Mulhall happy to be an Offaly poacher who has turned goalkeeper

Alan Mulhall
Alan Mulhall
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

OFFALY'S poacher turned goalkeeper Alan Mulhall expects a lively encounter with neighbours Laois in the O'Byrne Cup at Portlaoise tonight (7.30).

Mulhall, a high-scoring forward with Walsh Island in Offaly club football, will be back in his county role as netminder this evening.

And despite the relatively low-key nature of the fixture at the time of year when managers are sifting through players and tuning up for the league, Mulhall anticipates an extra competitive edge.

The game brings together two teams with something to prove, albeit that win, lose, or draw, the outcome will have no major bearing on the season.

Offaly got off to a winning start on Sunday, beating UCD by a point, and want to add to that momentum.

Laois, under the new management of Kerryman Tomas O Flatharta, weren't happy to lose to Wexford by 2-13 to 0-11, though they were missing some of their top men, including injured trio Ross Munnelly, Colm Boyle and Colm Begley.

Then there's the bragging rights that will focus the attention.

"Offaly and Laois is never going to be that tame, particularly where I'm coming from," said Mulhall.

"I went to school in Laois. I know all the Gracefield boys and the Bracknell boys would have all gone to school in and around Laois too, so there'd be a bit of bite because we'd know a good few of the boys we'd be playing against.

"The new rules will have some effect, but they've a new manager, and they're going to want to impress him.

"We're only in our second year with Emmet (McDonnell), and it is Laois versus Offaly, so I can't see it being too tame."

The 31-year-old has consistently been around the top echelons of the Offaly scoring charts in club fare, and was originally drafted in to the Faithful panel as a forward.

However, for the last five years since he returned from a couple of seasons out through injury, he has been first-choice county goalkeeper, barring a few games in 2012 as a forward. The period of outfield duty came at the behest of then-manager Gerry Cooney.

Cooney was looking to add some firepower to the attack, but by the time the league and Cooney's reign ended, Mulhall was back wearing the No 1 jersey.

"Being a forward for the club does help a bit with the county, because you probably read the forwards, they'd probably be thinking the way you would yourself when you're playing there," he said.

"But, the main thing is, I like playing with Offaly. I want to be on the team.

"I know my limitations and I'm happy to be in goal."

Mulhall's day job is as games manager with the county board, and a key part of that role is helping to develop football and hurling at grassroots level.

"Size is an issue for us and that's particularly relevant in minor hurling and football where we just don't have the numbers compared to the bigger population centres, but we have some good players coming through," he said.

"We have a very good set-up at senior level and I believe that on our day we're as good as any of the teams out there."

Irish Independent

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