Saturday 24 March 2018

McHale allows no room for sentiment in bid for Mayo's scalp

Roscommon selector Liam McHale says he and fellow Mayo man Kevin McStay are totally focused on their adopted county. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Roscommon selector Liam McHale says he and fellow Mayo man Kevin McStay are totally focused on their adopted county. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Liam McHale wasn't leaving any room for sentiment. He's quick to point out that if Roscommon exit the championship stage next Monday afternoon, he'll join the rest of Mayo in the bunker as they set about finally hauling their team over the line.

But that's not part of the plan just now.

McHale's Roscommon side took Mayo to the wire in what was another important step in their development. And he points out that bit by bit, they are building, garnering crucial bits of experience here and there. For all of the panel bar Seanie McDermott, last Sunday was their first championship game in Croke Park.

That they survived, and at times thrived, in that environment means McHale can't wait until next Monday's throw-in, which was confirmed for 2.0 by the GAA yesterday.

"I think this type of game in this environment will bring us on a long way," said the Roscommon selector. "And I think that we will be a little bit more comfortable, and a little bit more composed on Monday.

"I think it's great for us, another big game, our third big game this year, a fourth championship match, we're just really looking forward to it, looking forward to this game coming in. But I think there's more excitement about it now, we really feel that we've a great chance of winning the game."

Roscommon's Seanie McDermott. Photo by Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Roscommon's Seanie McDermott. Photo by Brendan Moran / Sportsfile


McHale's optimism isn't solely based on his side's gradual improvement. He's also factoring in the miles in Mayo legs.

Stephen Rochford's side have already been to extra-time twice this year and the replay means they'll pull on their boots for the seventh time in championship this summer.

To put that in some context, Kerry will only have to win four games to reach an All-Ireland final.

And McHale believes that hands the Rossies a considerable advantage next Monday.

"It's a tough draw for Mayo, they have had a long, long, hard haul the last six weeks and we feel that we have an advantage now going into the game simply because we are fresh and we are hungry and we are young and that Mayo team has had to put up with a lot his year now," he said.

"And I am sure they are really disappointed that they didn't beat us by a point or two and get the two or three weeks' rest that they need going into a semi-final. So we are really delighted with the draw.

"Obviously we would have loved to have won it at the end, but we are very happy that we are still in the championship."

Sunday was further evidence that their league form, that saw them win just one game in the top flight when already relegated, wasn't an accurate reflection of the talent in the squad.

"We gambled with the league and we wanted to be competitive in the championship.

"We were hoping we had done enough to stay up in the league but unfortunately we didn't and we took a few bad beatings, and our confidence was hurt a bit.

"The Cavan game gave us a little bit of respite and a little bit of confidence going into the championship and it was just week in, week out to try and get them fitter, better and to get them to understand the way we want to play a little bit better.

"We went out to score heavily and beat Leitrim well, because a young team needs that sort of victory, and not winning by three or four points.

"I don't mean to be disrespectful but we needed to go out and win that game well and not be sloppy. We did that. We went into the Galway game with confidence and we played really well.

"We had the lulls that we had today which are a concern, but we played really well against Galway. We could have won by more because we had four really good goal chances in the second half, but this was a level up again in this sort of an environment and in this stadium against Mayo.

"It's all about believing, keep working hard and trying to be intelligent in what you do. We have improved a lot. I think everybody will agree with that."

So Roscommon and McHale bounce into next week full of confidence. He's still Mayo to the core but if Roscommon manage to topple their neighbours, there'll be no one happier than McHale.

"I think it's great (coaching against his native county) and I'm used to it by now. I've been with a few different teams and I've been kind of involved with Roscommon football with Brigid's and the Roscommon senior team for the last five or six years now. It's good fun. There was a great atmosphere there and over 60,000 people.

"Obviously if we get knocked out I'll be hoping Mayo go on and win the All-Ireland.

"But right now we are doing our best to knock them out!"


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