Saturday 21 July 2018

I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it - Offaly veteran Mulhall

Offally veteran and Games manager for North Leinster Alan Mulhall. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offally veteran and Games manager for North Leinster Alan Mulhall. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The year has yet to turn but the new season is already upon us.

The Offaly footballers will be one of 26 inter-county sides kicking off their campaigns this weekend. Starting the 2018 season in 2017 seems a little odd but it matters little to long-serving Faithful goalkeeper Alan Mulhall as his involvement with the GAA is already a year-round commitment given his role as Games manager for North Leinster.

"It is a 12-month gig," Mulhall said of his role.

"We were talking out there and lads were asking, 'Are ye on the wind-down?' And 'no' is the word. We've reviews going on this (time of year) and just continuously meeting.

"Louth, Meath, Kildare, Longford and Westmeath are my counties, so I'm going around managing the Coaching and Games staff in them. There's a lot going on."

Despite the schedule, Mulhall had no hesitation about answering the call when new Offaly manager Stephen Wallace asked him to stay on board for the 2018 campaign.

At 35, he's one of the most experienced players in the dressing-room and that will be all the more important to the new manager given the retirements of Niall McNamee and Brian Darby.

"I suppose for myself, you always have your few close friends on the team that you get on with," Mulhall said.

"That doesn't change. There is lads that aren't playing anymore, the likes of Niall and Brian, that I would have been very close with all along because they're there so long and they're real leaders in the dressing-room.

"The only thing is it makes other young lads step up to be leaders and there's lads talking in the dressing-room now and trying to push things on that maybe would have been taking a back-step when the supposed leaders were around and they didn't want to be stepping on toes.

"But we have to have a team where everyone's a leader and feels comfortable. 

"Yeah, you probably see yourself falling into a new group of friends in the panel every now and again when lads retire but that's just the way it is."

Offaly get their new season under way when Wexford come to Tullamore this afternoon in the Bord Na Móna O'Byrne Cup and he has enjoyed working under Wallace and his goalkeeping coach Brendan Kealy so far.

"It's very vibrant, very energetic, really mad for progress in a very professional set-up. There's a good Kerry influence, there's Stephen, then there's Billy (Sheehan) and we've Brendan Kealy doing the goalkeeping coaching with us, so there's a big influence. `

"He's very good. Everything we do with Brendan is very game-specific. Even goalkeeping fitness work is game-specific as well. It's all Gaelic football-orientated every time, so it's really good stuff.

"He's only six months out of (the inter-county game) I suppose really. Everything he's doing he has a focus to it. He's working towards what he wants to see during the summer and the league.

"It's very enjoyable, it's all football-orientated. We're working very hard but everything is football-orientated the whole way through and it's very enjoyable. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy it.

"I'm 35 years of age now and I definitely think I've something to offer and I just enjoy it and love playing with Offaly."

Offaly start their Division 3 campaign when Longford visit Bord na Móna O'Connor Park on Sunday, January 28 and Mulhall wants to use the spring to build confidence in the side.

"The league is massive. There's no-one in Division 3 or 4 because they're not meant to be. You're there because of the standard you're at at the minute.

"We believe we're good enough to get up and that's what we're focusing on.

"I don't like the talk of consolidating positions or 'we'll stay safe'.

"Every time I go out to play for Offaly I just want to try and win matches and I want to play at as high a level as possible."

Irish Independent

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