IrishRugby.ie caught up with Clontarf manager Pat McHale ahead of Saturday’s AIB League Division One semi-final clash between Cork Constitution and ‘Tarf at Temple Hill (kick-off 2.30pm). Read on for more.
IrishRugby.ie: Firstly Pat, any injury worries in the camp ahead of the game and when are you heading down to Cork?
Pat McHale: At present we have one injury worry in the squad. John Duffy suffered a shoulder injury in the Galwegians game, he is unlikely to play any part at the weekend.
Otherwise we have a clean bill of health and training this week has been excellent with a very relaxed atmosphere around the squad. We’re to fly down to Cork on Saturday morning.
IR: You must be pleased with how Andy Wood has done in his first season as the club’s head coach – what is he like to work with and who else is involved in the managerial set-up with the Clontarf side?
PMcH: Yes we are delighted with Andy’s first season but it has come as no surprise to us as he has been an integral part of the senior coaching set-up over the past three years. As part of our planning, Andy was identified as the natural successor to Phil (Werahiko) and the transition has been seamless.
Andy is very easy to work with. He brings many of the qualities he showed as a player to the role. He is direct, honest, hard working and fair. He has a very easy going manner with excellent communication skills and most of all has the total respect of the squad.
Andy is supported in his role by Alan Reddan, who is our backs coach, and Simon O’Donnell, who is our fitness and second team coach. All three played together in the Clontarf teams in 2002 and 2003.
IR: Just from a personal perspective Pat, how many semi-finals have you been involved with Clontarf in? Any outstanding memories from previous semi-finals – the 2006 win over Cork Con must have been a highlight?
PMcH: I have been involved in all five Division One semi-finals with the club. They have all been special in different ways. The first, although losing to Shannon at Thomond Park, and our first home semi beating Buccaneers in Castle Avenue.
But you’re correct the win at home over Con in 2006, that was probably our most complete performance in any of the semis.
IR: You must be pleased to see the younger players in the squad, the likes of Ian Keatley and Paul O’Donohoe, make the step-up this year. Who out of the squad has impressed you so far this season – maybe an unsung hero or two?
PMcH: You’re forgetting that Cian Healy is also the same age as Ian and Paul and also played a significant role in the team this season. Yes, it’s great to see young talent develop and all three of the lads play an important part in the squad and indeed around the club with coaching and support of the younger teams.
Not alone have the lads have brought a freshness and enthusiasm to the squad but the incidents of practical jokes have also risen dramatically!
Unsung heroes, The whole squad have played an important part in getting us to Saturday’s semi-final but if forced to pick a couple for special mention I would have to say Phil Howard and Adrian Clarke have performed outstandingly all season.
IR: Clontarf have been the top Leinster club in AIB League Division One for the majority of the last few years. What are the major factors behind the club being able to be so consistent and keep making the play-offs?
PMcH: We’ve been the top Leinster club I think for six of the past seven seasons. Saturday will be semi-final number six with two finals behind us but no AIB League title yet. I think this alone is a great motivating factor as you tend to redouble your efforts each year in an effort to secure the title.
A lot of credit for the level of consistency over the last few years must go to the committee who had the foresight to bring in quality coaches and then support them. Alex Wylie did not have the success on the park that he would have liked but is responsible in great part for putting in place the building blocks by way of professional organisation that have been use to great advantage by Phil and now Andy since.
We are blessed to have a very supportive committee and sponsors, in particular Dublin Port who have been with us through the lean days as well.
There is also the Clontarf ‘club factor’ in play. We are still a family and parish-based club with the best support in the division. We thankfully have great numbers of members willing to give up their time to take on all the necessary if not attractive roles that need to be done.
The consistency of effort is across the club as a whole – and any success from the senior squad over the past few seasons has been as a result of total club effort.