» LiveGaelic Legends – Liam McHale Part 2

03 May

LiveGaelic Legends – Liam McHale Part 2

Posted by Connor Murphy in LiveGaelic Legends | May 2013

This is the second part of a two part interview with Mayo Legend Liam McHale, in case you missed it Part 1 is well worth a look as Liam discusses his career in detail.

LiveGaelic Legends – Liam McHale – Mayo – Part 2

Although you wouldn’t be seen as a conventional one, you could be termed as a Dual Star of sorts. Do you think that a modern player could play two sports to the level you did nowadays?
Yeah I certainly do think so you have to really love what you’re doing. I suppose I was encouraged to and I wasn’t put under pressure until later in my career to give up either game. When you have that sort of support you have a great chance of making it. I’d be playing a basketball match at eight o’clock on a Saturday night in Waterford or Cork and there would be a car outside waiting for me when all my teammates were going off for a few beers after a game and I’d be heading to Fermanagh or Tyrone or where ever the National League game was. They were my weekends for thirteen years, but I must say that I enjoyed every minute and I enjoyed competing.

I guess for younger lads that are dual players, life is different and they just don’t have the energy to keep it going. It can be done though, the facilities are better now, pitches are better so you are not trudging in muck on to the basketball court and the conditioning work they are doing is better. It could be done, but I suppose that guys don’t have the time to be playing two sports.

What are your thoughts on the way the game has developed in the past ten years or so in terms of the physicality , the tactics and the contention that there is between those that want purist football and then those like Jim McGuinness that advocate possession over everything else?
A good manager will take over a team and look at them and by a certain time he will have figured out how can I win. The reason Jim McGuinness put in his system is because he knew he hadn’t fifteen footballers good enough to beat the Kerry’s, the Cork’s, and the top teams, he understood that. So he put a fifteen in place two years ago that served him well two years ago and served him very well obviously last year. I would have to say what Jim McGuinness achieved is absolutely remarkable. He doesn’t have the strength in depth of the top four teams in the country.

What disappoints me is, and this would be coming from basketball, teams come in with Mickey Harte, Joe Kernan and Jim McGuinness and that brings a defensive system, a possession type system with fast breaks and transitional type offence that they run, and the big teams try to emulate that and try and beat them at what they’re good at instead of trying to break that defence down and get your better players on the ball. That’s what’s disappointed me in the last ten years these big teams seem to try and copy it and drop guys behind the ball. It’s not for me to say what they should be doing, but I know I would be attacking with a good offence.

McHaleLiam_1989_vCorkDo you think that comes from a fear on the part of the managers, of the bigger teams, that they can’t force their players to play creatively, but they can force them to play defensively?
Most teams only train twice a week and most teams are only coming together two times or three times and you can jot that up to six hours maybe seven hours. If you want to put a strategy in place and that you knew was going to work against a Donegal it takes time to get that and you have to practise that a lot on the training ground and county teams don’t have that sort of time. You can’t be bringing your players from all ends of the county every night, because it just doesn’t make sense.

I would like to see what Jim Gavin does. I think he’s been a breath of fresh air, I’ve watched them play a few times and they really do go out and play. I thought it was a very good game yesterday (Division 1 final between Tyrone and Dublin). He is a very smart guy and he’s going to add little bits and pieces to his defensive system and he might hold them back for the Championship as regards their half back line going forward and leaving gaps, but at the same time I like what he’s trying to do, he is saying we can go out and we might concede thirteen points in a game, but we’re going to score sixteen or seventeen.

Crowds grow on stuff like that, I think it’s all about entertainment as well as anything else and I think it’s fantastic that managers like Jim are going out and trying to play and to be creative and put up big scores.

With the black card being brought in do you think that it will stop the tide of cynical fouling, or is it a toothless endeavour?
I like it. There is an awful lot of cynical fouling going on and the game can become a shambles. If you are four points down against certain teams with fifteen minutes to go you haven’t got a hope of winning and it’s not because of their great defence, it’s not because of their great strategy, it’s because they just continuously foul and they are sharing yellow cards.

McHale BBallThe only problem I see with it is that I would continuously give out black cards like basketball, so if I foul out I’m gone and everybody knows that and you can foul out too. If five guys foul out in basketball five guys can replace them (i.e. The whole team can be replaced if they foul out) so what I would say is that if a guy gets a red card send him off, but if there is a fourth black card you can replace him as well. People are scared it’s going to end up eleven a side versus twelve aside, well I would say to them that the black card is a good idea but allow them to replace each player.

Three is not enough because it might end up twelve against thirteen, but coaches have to coach differently. You’ve got to be disciplined if you make a mistake defensively and your man gets away from you, you can’t pull him down because if you pull him down you’re gone. This is the part of coaching that coaches neglect, when the opposition have the ball you’ve got to be positioned correctly to mark your opposite number and if you’re not you’re going to get caught and managers and coaches are going to have to start coaching that. Then there will be less mistakes made and then you won’t have to pull down a man, because you are defensively in the correct position to defend him.

It makes the game better for me, and makes it more challenging for the coaches and I think it’s a great thing, because people go to Croke Park, they come to Castlebar, they come to Salthill and they want to see free flowing football. They want to see the Colm Coopers, they want to see the Bernard Brogans, they want to see these guys perform, they don’t want to see them getting the ball and four guys knocking lumps out of them, or football matches that end 0-7 – 0-6. That’s not football.

We’ve been seeing too much of that lately and I think the powers that be are aware of that and they want to try and change it and get people and crowds going to games and looking forward to high scoring games and see the top players in the country, because the skill level that these guys have is amazing, what they can do is absolutely amazing like kicking points forty, forty five metres out and they are just not showing enough of that.

With basketball being termed as a non-contact sport, do you think that GAA coaches could take on some of the defensive ideas in basketball to deal with the new rules?
A lot of the coaching I would do would be basketball influenced and defensively especially. Where guys should be in certain situations you have an awful lot clearer view in basketball. I tried to teach the Brigids guys how to match up to a zone as opposed to man to man and get that idea out of your head that “my man hasn’t scored I’ve had a great game”. If the cornerback is struggling the problem is with other people as well as him. Every time the corner forward gets the ball up front there is supposed to be help there and you have to drop off your man in certain situations and thankfully it worked well for the Brigids guys this year.

A lot of what I would do would have basketball influences for sure, but basketball is so technical, it’s a game that the fundamentals of the game are rammed down your throat at ten years of age. That you have to be both sided and that you have to get your head up and be evasive and it’s more technical, it teaches you to be in certain positions at certain times and I try to do that with the Brigids guys. They are a very intelligent football team and they bought into it very early and we became a very good defensive team. I think that’s all we really needed to get to where they got this year, because they are a talented bunch, having won four Connacht Titles and six County Titles in eight years.

Following Last year’s All Ireland you were vocal as to how the Mayo team failed tactically during the match, what do you think it would take for them to go one better this year?
I’d be a huge admirer of this Kerry team, even though they are not as great as they were. They would have probably won five or six All Irelands if they hadn’t come up against such a great Tyrone team. I think it’s very much open, Kerry are still going to be there or thereabouts, Cork can come again, Dublin are obviously favourites, Tyrone, Donegal and of course my own county Mayo.

24804-xlargeI could see Mayo beating any team, but with fifteen minutes to go last year I just thought that we let the game fizzle out. I was sitting in the stand and I wasn’t one bit excited about the chances we were creating. I would say that Donegal were looking over their shoulders near the end of the game, looking really nervous and not pushing on, like we didn’t against Meath in ’96. I thought they were there for the taking and we didn’t grab it by the scruff of the neck by scoring a goal and we never looked like putting them under massive pressure. I do believe that if we had done that they would have cracked and we would have won the game.

We need to start scoring goals, our shot selection needs to improve, we’re kicking too many wides and creating too many goal chances and missing them. We had five or six goals chances against Dublin in the Division 1 semi final and scored none of them, all that sort of thing needs to improve.

Brigids played eleven championship matches last year on the way to the All Ireland final and scored twenty two goals in eleven games. Now it’s very difficult to do, two goals and seven or eight points and you are probably going to win that game. When we get goal chances we have to take them and we have to stop kicking bad wides in pressure situations especially at the end of games.

I think we should be there or thereabouts and I hope to see Dillon back soon, and Kieth Higgins back soon and obviously Andy. When Andy is there we seem to score a lot more goals because his composure is very good and his decision making is very good. He can score goals himself and is a very unselfish player. With those three players back and a few adjustments, there are certain things we can improve on and if we can improve on them we will be hard beaten.

It’s quite obvious Liam’s is still very much in love with the sport as he continues to push it forward and compete in his roll with St Brigids. We at Live Gaelic would like to thank him for taking the time to talk with us and sharing his views and memories of the game.

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