THE LAST DANCE Fiona McHale is pictured in action in her last game for Mayo during the 2018 TG4 Connacht Ladies SFC Final against Galway. Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo ladies boosted by return of Carnacon star
FORMER All Star midfielder Fiona McHale has accepted an invitation from new manager Michael Moyles to rejoin the Mayo ladies senior football squad.
The 33 year-old is one of four Carnacon players, along with Sadhbh Larkin, Amy Dowling and Saoirse Walsh, who have been included in a provisional, open-ended Mayo training panel.
The quartet were among eight Carnacon players who left the Mayo squad in 2018, and no representative of the county champions had featured at inter-county senior level since then.
However, Fiona McHale said she is looking forward to getting back involved with Mayo.
“It’s been hard not being involved,” she told The Mayo News.
“I’d been involved with Mayo since 2004 and I’ve put a lot of time and a lot of energy into playing for Mayo and trying to win an All-Ireland essentially. It’s ultimately what we were always there for.
“It’s been well documented that I just didn’t want to be part of that environment,” is how she sums up her departure from the Mayo ladies squad in the summer of 2018.
“I believe that the team environment I have now is really approachable,” she continued.
“It’s a very approachable management team and it’s one that asks us for a lot of our feedback and a lot of our input as well.”
The calibre of the management team assembled by Michael Moyles — who coached the Mayo ladies squad in 2015 — is something Fiona is keen to emphasise.
“Before Michael was appointed, I had been thinking about it [playing with Mayo again].
“I knew that a new management team was coming in and something exciting was on the horizon. I had been out of the championship for three seasons and had obviously really missed it. I was at the stage in my career that if I don’t go back now, I’ll never go back, with my age profile.
“I had been playing college football and I’d also been playing club football, but you’d also really miss being part of an inter-county setup.
“It wasn’t really a hard decision at all, the idea of going into a set-up like that really excited me, and just to be part of a Mayo team again.”
While McHale has missed being part of the county set-up over the last two seasons, the time out has allowed her to focus on other things, such as her PhD studies in the University of Limerick in the area of physical activity and health for adolescents.
A qualified PE teacher, she also took her first steps into coaching with Carnacon underage teams before taking the University of Limerick senior ladies team in 2012.
She also trained the Claremorris men’s senior club team in 2018.
“I just felt when I wasn’t playing for Mayo for those few years that I had the opportunity to put that time and energy into other things in my life. It gave me a really good perspective on things, that football isn’t the be-all and the end-all, that there’s other things outside of football,” she explained.
“One of my friends had a festival at his house there one of the summers, I was never at a music festival in my life because of Mayo ladies.
“Even going on certain holidays that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was involved…[Mayo] was literally my main focus and priority over the years.”