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'It would have been an awful downer after burying my dad to lose that game'

Mayo legend Liam McHale is this week’s guest on the Warriors podcast.

Image: James MeehanInpho

AS HE SAYS himself, Liam McHale was involved in plenty of big days between his playing and coaching career.  

The legendary Mayo midfielder was this week’s guest on Warriors, the GAA podcast for members of The42.

McHale’s task was to select the three favourite games from his GAA career. He opted for two from his Mayo days – the 1989 Connacht final replay and 1996 drawn All-Ireland final – plus the 2013 All-Ireland club victory of St Brigid’s where he was a coach. 

The Ballina native won eight senior provincial titles with Mayo, but his second medal held great personal meaning as he had only buried his father earlier in the week.

“It was a very difficult time for me because my father was very ill at the time,” he says. “I picked the 1989 Connacht final replay because my father died the evening of the drawn game.

“I played the drawn game in Castlebar. I remember Dermot Flanagan took a long free and it broke to me and I kicked it over the bar to put us a point up. I was saying, ‘Thank God this game is over I can get home now’ because my father was dying and we all knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. 

“But Gay Sheerin kicked the ball out if memory serves me correctly and we fouled Roscommon about 55 yards out. Derek Duggan stood up then and I said, ‘He’s going to make this, it’s going to be a drawn game.’  So he kicked the ball over the bar, a huge kick.

“He drove it over the bar and the referee blew the whistle so it was a draw game. A very good friend of the family Alan Rowe, Sarah Rowe’s dad in fact, picked me up after the game. I was in my shorts and took the jersey off and headed home. About 15 minutes after I got home my father died. 

“There wasn’t a two- week break before the replay, it was just a one-week break. I had to talk to John O’Mahony and tell him, ‘I won’t be around for practice but I’ve love to play, I want to play. Don’t think that I don’t want to play, I’ll be in a good mental state by the end of the week.’

“So John accommodated me like that. I got to practice on Thursday night, my dad was buried on the Tuesday. And we went out the Sunday in Hyde Park and it was just like a rollercoaster game, it ebbed and flowed the whole day.

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“We ended up drawing in regulation and then went into extra-time and I think we were three or four down in the second period of injury time and we got a goal and two points to win it. 

“I’d never felt as relieved, exhausted and drained as I did when the final whistle blew that day. I’ll never forget that feeling, I was so happy that we could go on and win the game.

“It would have been an awful downer after burying my dad to lose that game after all we’d been through in the two games. So that was a very special moment.”

McHale also reflected on his red card in the 1996 All-Ireland final replay and the journey that saw Roscommon kingpins St Brigid’s taste All-Ireland success with a stunning comeback against Ballymun Kickhams.

Listen to the full interview by subscribing here and check out the back catalogue featuring episodes with Johnny Doyle, Declan Browne, Ken McGrath, Briege Corkery, Sean McMahon and Alan Kerins.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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