New Queen's boss Shane Mulholland focused on task at hand but still dreams of Mourne job
HIS sights may be firmly set on leading Queen’s University’s next bid for Sigerson Cup success, but former Down forward Shane Mulholland admits he still dreams of managing his native county “at some point in the future”.
The Ballyholland man was yesterday confirmed as Queen’s head coach for the 2018/19 season, where he will work alongside former Derry star Gerard O’Kane and ex-Fermanagh full-back Peter Quinn – both former Sigerson winners with the Belfast university.
Looking further down the line, however, Mulholland has never made any secret of his desire to lead the Mournemen, and signalled his interest early on when the search began for a successor to Eamonn Burns.
The Down County Board eventually got their man when Paddy Tally was appointed last month, and Mulholland is a strong supporter of the Galbally man, who led St Mary’s University College to Sigerson glory in 2017.
Yet he has no regrets about putting his name forward, and hopes to put himself in the frame for the job in years to come.
“Long-term, the Down job is still my ambition at some point in the future,” said Mulholland.
“Being realistic, you hope you can maybe act in a vacuum where there’s not a whole lot of natural candidates kicking around. Even from talking with Stevie [Poacher] at the time, I was saying ‘Jim McGuinness applied for the Donegal job three times before he got it’.
“We didn’t get too emotionally invested in it. We just said if an interview comes along, we’d start to think about what we might like to do, what we’d want to achieve.
“You put your name in the hat and see what happens. I knew there would be other people with more on their CV - they targeted Paddy, they got him and that’s great.
“But your county’s your county, that’s what your passion would be. That’s what you would want to do. I’ve made no secret that’s something I’d love to do at some point in the future.
“Paddy could be very successful, and I hope he is, so you could be looking four, five, six, however many years down the track. But I’m totally behind Paddy. Given his CV, I hope it turns out to be a fantastic appointment, I really do.
“There seems to be some sense floating about Down now in terms of where we’re at and where we need to be - he’s not coming in to stupid expectation levels. Hopefully he gets the chance to work at something and build something.”
And, in terms of his next project, Mulholland sees working with Queen’s as “a great opportunity”, having previously been involved alongside Anthony McGrath.
The former Down minor boss, who led Rostrevor to the final of the Ulster Intermediate Football Championship last year, is relishing the prospect of working with a group of players determined to make their mark in the game.
“I was in there with Anthony McGrath before, but this is an opportunity to take it on my own,” continued Mulholland, a law graduate of the university.
“Of course it would be nice to try and win something. You’d want to get to a semi-final – that’s always the goal for Queen’s, but we’ll take it one step at a time.
“You’re dealing with a lot of lads who will be aspiring county players, or may already be county players. I really enjoyed the two years with Anthony previously because, when you look at it, Ryan Jones was in the panel, Caolan Rafferty, Che Cullen, Martin McElhinney had already won an All-Ireland medal, Rory Grugan… that type of player.
“Most of those guys were either in or aspiring to be in county panels, so they’re just like sponges. They want to get better, healthier, they want to get stronger.
“Patrick Burns was in the panel in our second year - I’m not sure if Paddy played a minute of Sigerson but you could see he was a sponge. Then, a couple of years down the track, he’s playing in all Armagh’s Championship games.
“Looking at this year, there’s a good calibre of players there to be working with, and it’s a great age profile to be dealing with. It’s an exciting challenge.”