Managing from the middle

Winning feeling: Winning the Connacht Shield last year was a great boost according to O’Hara.

Winning feeling: Winning the Connacht Shield last year was a great boost according to O’Hara.

The first round of the new Super League season is only over and there are plenty more rounds to go, but with a point on the board already Straide and Foxford United are up and running. This Sunday they will host Castlebar Celtic in Green Road in round two and will be welcoming back a couple of old faces when former player Paul Fitzpatrick and Paul Moran return with the Hoops.

This year Straide and Foxford United have the unusual position of having joint player managers with John O’Hara and Chris Downey taking over the management role together along with lining out with the side.

This week the Mayo Advertiser caught up with O’Hara to see how he was fitting into his new role alongside Downey in the middle of the park during the game and also trying to manage the side.

“To be honest it can be quite tough on the field, we found that out the last day. When you’re playing you’re usually concentrating on your own game and making sure you’re doing your best. But we’ve got a few good lads with us on the sideline like Brian Joyce, Frank Mulvihill and you’ve got to trust them too in what they are seeing on the pitch. If either myself of Chris weren’t playing it’d be easier obviously. But that’s the way it is and we’re learning as we go.”

How it came about that the duo took the job is a tale that many clubs would know O’Hara explained. “It would have been back around early February or so, we started back training and were searching for a manager. Honestly there weren’t great numbers turning up and we were finding it hard to get a manager. So the chairman came to us and asked us to take it on and we couldn’t say no really. So we put our heads together and got down to work and started trying to get lads back in and get ready for the new season. We’ve tried to recruit some new faces and we’ve been successful with some and others I’d be a bit disappointed we didn’t get in. But everyone has worked hard to get ready for the season. We’ve some new good young lads also coming through like Damien Hughes and Dale Hopkins so it’s all about building now and getting points.”

Last season, Straide and Foxford United finished sixth in a packed mid-table, they were just four points off fifth placed Manulla and six points clear of relegated Moy Villa, showing how tight the margins are in this division behind the top sides. Asked how he thought things will pan out this year O’Hara said. “Obviously, we’d like to get at least get back to sixth place where we finished last year, we’d be happy with that. But there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot of teams tightly matched who could beat each other, we need to be winning games against the likes of Conn Rangers, Ballyglass, Iorras Aontaithe and Charlestown Athletic to make sure we’re safe.”

Last year also saw Straide and Foxford United win the Connacht Shield, and that brought a feel good factor into the side O’Hara reckoned going into the start of that season. “That was really a continuation from the season before when we got promoted back up to the Super League, it gave everyone a great buzz about the place and made young lads interested in playing, and keeping it up too which was great. We got off to a good start in the league too last year beating Ballina, it may have gone a bit wrong for a few weeks after it but we pulled it together again.” When asked if a cup run again this year would be something he would be targeting, O’Hara laughed, saying: “Knowing our luck we’ll get Westport United away in the first round, that always seems to happen. So if we could avoid that we could get a good run going, and sure if they’re knocked out it’d help, we’d feel we’re well capable of beating any side out there.”

On Sunday O’Hara and his team will be looking to pick up their first win of the season when they host Castlebar Celtic in Green Road, kick-off is at 2.30pm.

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