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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 3 December 2020
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'It was a hard decision because I didn't know how my body was going to be'

Stephen McPhail is desperate to end his career on a high at Shamrock Rovers.

McPhail still has a big role to play for Rovers.
McPhail still has a big role to play for Rovers.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

STEPHEN MCPHAIL WAS caught in two minds but he’s fully convinced he made the right decision.

The former Ireland international, now 36, thought long and hard about his future during the winter months. The offer to stay on at Shamrock Rovers was on the table but he had to think twice about it.

He left it until the very last minute. Deliberating every positive and negative, and taking on board the advice of former team-mates who had hung up their own boots.

In the end, he still had something to give. Staying fit after nearly two decades as a professional was always going to be a battle but he knew he still had something left in the tank.

“It was a hard decision,” he admits. “I left it right up until the death just because I didn’t know how I was or how I was going to be.

“It’s so difficult. You don’t want to really push it and regret it but I think I’ll know when it’s right.”

McPhail committed to another season, motivated by the chance to end his career with a League of Ireland winner’s medal with Rovers and in the process nurture some of the club’s younger players.

“Speaking to Pat [Fenlon], I knew I had some sort of role to play and I know it’s not going to be every game.

Stephen McPhail celebrates after the game McPhail celebrating the derby win over Pat's last time out. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I got through pre-season really well and tore my hamstring in the last game in India which was frustrating. Missed four games at the start, feel back to myself now so hopefully have a big part to play.

“We’re strong in that middle area anyway so you can rotate and Pat is happy enough with how we’re going in there. I just feel as if I can bring something off the pitch as well as on so I’ll doing that with the young lads.

“The more games I play at this stage of the career, everything’s a bonus so I’m just trying to keep focused and helping the team, the manager and the young boys who need a bit of experience.

“Any older player in any squad is their main objective to set an example everyday and that’s how I grew up, looking at older players and asking for advice and that’s what you have to do.

“The older you get you can’t just ignore them and let them crack on with it, you have to give back what your learned and hope they take something from it and try and get a good career.”

McPhail has just returned from holiday with his young family as the SSE Airtricity League paused for its two-week mid-season break.

It came at a good time for Rovers, who, much like last season, huffed and puffed their way through the first half of the campaign to sit nine points off the pace in fourth.

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They can close that gap somewhat this evening when second-placed Cork City visit Tallaght Stadium, for what is the standout fixture of the weekend.

“It’s a great game for us to start back with, looking forward to it,” McPhail continued.

Herbalife Announce New Ambassadors McPhail was speaking at the launch of Shamrock Rovers' new partnership with Herbalife. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

“Obviously they’re a really good team and in good form. The gap is still a decent one so we need to try and win the game, close it up and make gains on the two ahead of us.

“We’ve had a really up and down season, there have been some bad performances out of the blue. It’s hard to put your finger on it, we’ve had meetings after meetings about it but listen we’re still in with a shout.

“We know it’s a couple of big months for us. If we can hang in there and concentrate on ourselves then we’re confident we can make it a better half this time around.”

The former Leeds and Cardiff midfielder has featured five times in the league this term so with his game time limited and the Hoops struggling to compete with Dundalk, does he regret his decision?

“No,” is his simple answer.

“I’m quite stubborn like that, I’ll try and make it happen for myself and there’s loads to look forward to.

“All the cups still, Europa League next and I’m hoping to have a bit of an influence.

“Play until you’re enjoying it and I love going in every day. I’ve picked the brains of guys who’ve retired to see how they coped because it’s the highs and lows – they’re amazing.

“You have to try and not sit idle for too long and keep yourself occupied by doing stuff.”

For the moment, all McPhail is focused on is bringing success back to Tallaght, both this season and in the future.

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