My GAA Life

My GAA Life – Down’s Shane Mulholland

Name? Shane Mulholland.

Which teams did you represent?
Ballyholland Harps, Down, Ulster in the Railway Cup.

What is your current involvement with the GAA?
QUB Sigerson manager, Ballyholland Harps u-12s.

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?
A couple of big moments such as winning the championships for the club, wearing the Down jersey for first time and then again for my first championship game and winning a Railway Cup. The best moment was meeting my dad on the field in Casement post-game in 1999 against Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final. A moment I will never ever forget and my best moment bar none.

What was the most surprising moment in your career?
I was surprised to get a Compromise Rules invitation for the training squad back in 2000. I had a lot of time for Brian McEniff and seemed he did for me also. It was lovely to be thought of at that level albeit I didn’t make it near the final squad.

Who was the best player you ever played with?
Always a tough one. I had fleeting moments with lads at Railway Cup level and played with a number of Down legends, but James McCartan stands out for me. Intellectually at a different level on the field, he saw things before they happened and one tough man in the heat of the battle

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?
I can’t just name one so three men in particular. Number one is my Da who managed me from eight to 18. He’s my hero, simple as. The second is Val Kane and the third Jim McCartan, both in Abbey CBS. It was a complete footballing education to hear their advice and to be driven and
challenged by them on a daily basis. Things that those three men said to me, I find myself dishing out the same advice to fellas I work with now, right down to the kids.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing? Never stop moving and Play the ball early. I wasn’t blessed with blistering pace, but when on my day, I had an engine that I had to use to be effective. I could travel up and down the pitch, and I think that was key for me. It frustrates the hell out of me when I see forwards so easily marked by defenders because their movement is crap. I could also
pass the ball, I didn’t need to take many touches.

What was the best thing about playing in your era? I played at the tail-end of the 90s when things weren’t quite as scientific on or off the field. I wish I had arrived either a few years earlier or a few years later. It was a bit more spontaneous, a little less intense outside of championship season, and I think most players of that era would hark back to that. That’s what made it more enjoyable. People will say less defensive systems when it was more man v man, but I would have loved to have played now
and to be tasked with unlocking a mass defence.

What was the worst thing about playing your era?
I’m struggling to find one, it was a much simpler time. Less drama about systems and rules. It was an honour to represent your family and club when you played county. Honestly, I cannot think of a drawback other than we kicked off the GPA in Belfast upstairs in the Bot because we felt player welfare wasn’t being looked after. I’m not sure things have advanced too much in that regard even now!

When did you know it was time to call it quits?
When you get a letter saying your services are no longer required! Seriously though for club, I stopped too soon. I didn’t have the discipline to keep myself in the physical shape required and could have played for many more years. Mickey Linden told me to play as long as you can, and he was right but I didn’t listen. I stopped to manage my club senior team. For county again it was fitness related, I didn’t adapt
to the more strength and conditioning focused world of the early noughties and will regret that forever. I drifted out the back door and wasted the talent that I had. Sad really and a huge regret.

What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one of your former teammates?
I spent 12 months on the sidelines at 19 having been given a suspension in a club game, a massive regret.
On the funny side, I will never forget one of those late 90s quintessential moments which people would be horrified about now and obviously would be plastered on social media. It was an away league game down south, coupled with an overnight hotel stop and a large alcohol element. I won’t name names, but this particular game was a complete disaster with a huge character in at full-forward asking for a high
ball into the mixer – he soared into the air, called his ball out loud, but the ball went through his hands and bounced off his forehead. Pete turned around and said ‘what in God’s name is wrong with that man today?’ Not sure he ever found out but pints upon pints, a wedding, a wee hours of the
morning boxing match on TV, a few quid slipped to the night porter, a couple of people passed out and shoved into function rooms, and a number of missed alarm calls – a complete pantomime but serious craic and it always comes up when we meet up. Do you remember the night we stopped off at Straffan?