Interview with Ex St Pats Manager Pete Mahon

This is an article i had to write up for college before Christmas. I had to carry out interview, record it on dicta-phone and write up article

As Pete Mahon sits in his office at 125 Emmet Road, the home to St Patrick’s Athletic in Inchicore, the road outside is quiet, unlike 20 nights over the past season when the fans would prepare to support the team that Pete had put together under strict financial guidelines from the owner and board. It is time for Pete to reflect on the season past with St Patrick’s Athletic, a season full of emotion, highs and lows and a certain amount of drama.

       The future is uncertain and for someone whose career spans much of his adult life he also takes the time to reflect on that career. His career in football didn’t have the most promising start when a teacher recommended he try hurling but Pete was a promising young footballer and stuck with the game, and played at quite a high level with Drumcondra and St Francis.

        Asking Pete to pick a highlight of his career to date isn’t easy, he has been in football a long time, managing St Francis, Bohemians, UCD and presently St Pat’s. But as Pete says it was with St Francis that he took his first real steps into management even though he had been involved with the Leinster Youths and Ireland underage teams. It was with the Leinster Youths that he came to the attention of Mick Hyland who took him to St Francis first as a player and then manager. He would spend 28 years at St Francis in total. It was there that he had probably the highlight of his career when as manager of non league side, St Francis, he took them all the way to the Senior FAI Cup Final in 1990.

          On their way to the final St Francis beat a Cobh team, who had a certain Roy Keane playing his last game for them before he moved to England and future international fame with Ireland. After beating Bohemians in the semi-final, St Francis prepared for the final in their usual way except for one thing, one of the St Francis team got married the day before and the whole team went to the afters of the wedding and had a couple of beers before heading home, not wanting to stay overnight in a hotel before the Cup Final. The day itself passed his St Francis team by, they were well beaten by Bray Wanderers and a fine John Ryan hat-trick. Pete explains that “the whole occasion of playing in Lansdowne Road, in front of a crowd of 25,000 seemed to overawe his players but getting all the way to the final was a terrific achievement”.

            Managing a team in a Cup Final is something Pete has done since, his St Pats team lost the Setanta Cup Final last year to Bohemians and it was while manager of Bohemians that Pete had the pleasure of managing a player he rates as the best he has managed. Kevin Hunt was the consummate midfielder and gentleman on and off the pitch. Pete describes him as “modest and professional in everything he did and the way he dealt with all the other playing and coaching staff”.

       Having managed a player of Kevin Hunt’s stature within the League of Ireland, Pete says the future of the League rests with bringing through the young players. The money is no longer there to be paying 24 full time professionals so squads will be made up of 14-16 professional players and augmented by younger players. Of the U19s panel who would be on amateur contracts, Pete reckons he has five or  six from the U19s “that will make the breakthrough next season or at least be knocking on the door of the squad”. Pete sees this as the way forward and would love to have closer links with the schoolboys so players could be monitored at a younger age.

            But as Pete sees it “the Club lacks the finance and a focal training point where all the teams come under the one umbrella”. One way this could be done was, as Pete suggested was the installation of an All Weather pitch in Richmond Park which could be used by all teams. But it comes back to lack of finance so until that improves there is very little chance of the pitch being changed.

       With the future so unknown and players out of contract, Pete remarks “the owner of the Club, Garret Kelleher, needs to communicate with him what his plans are”. With more clubs being taken over and partly run by fans Pete sees this as a possible way forward but it can’t happen under the present situation. Pete says “if Garret Kelleher could come to some arrangement with a fan’s group about ground rental and an infusion of funds to help them get started then it would be a good thing”. But “communication from the owner to manager to fans and back up the line is vital”.

            Pete Mahon’s own position isn’t even clear at this stage, with no contact with the owner since the season ended, but Pete is “hopeful” that a meeting will take place before he goes on holiday at the start of November. If no meeting takes place he would be “out of contract” and “it would probably be time to move on”.

            Getting Pete to reflect on the season just past and his time with Pat’s since he took over in 2009 is full of excitement, bad luck, highs and lows. When he took over St Pat’s, as he remarks himself “I wasn’t even first choice for the job, Damian Richardson was, but when he couldn’t reach agreement with the Club, the then CEO, Richard Sadlier, rang and arranged to meet me. I was asked to take the job till the end of the season and with Pat’s at the bottom of the table the aim was to save them from relegation”. This was achieved and Pete was offered the job on a more permanent basis. The following season Pete took St Pat’s to 5th in the League, the FAI Cup semi final and the final off the Setanta Cup. Losing the semi final and the Setanta Cup Final were the lows of the 2010 season but because Sporting Fingal went bust Pat’s qualified for Europe.

             This season Pat’s finished 4th and were very unlucky to lose the FAI Cup semi final again, and as Pete says, “the referee made a terrible mistake that night and it cost Pat’s a cup final place”. When asked about referees “they have a tough job and they are liable to make mistakes like everyone else, but the problem is their mistakes can be season defining for teams” he replies. But Pete did manage to win a trophy for the Club this year, guiding them to the Leinster Senior Cup, “the fourth trophy” as Pete called it but “still one we entered to win”. With the help of Sligo winning the FAI Cup Pete has managed to guide Pat’s into Europe again next season something the fans really enjoy.

         This season’s European adventure brought Pat’s and Pete to Ukraine, Iceland and Kazakhstan. Europe brings bigger headaches because of Euro rules which meant Pat’s had to play one game in Tallaght. The build up to that game was overshadowed by a threatened players strike and only an eleventh hour deal between the Club and players brokered by the FAI sorted the issue and lifted the threat to the game. Pete remarks that “the biggest factor in not giving a good performance that night was not being able to play at home in Inchicore and not the players’ bonus row. I was always confident the game would go ahead because the players trained well and were totally committed but had decided to make a stand under advisement from their union.”

        And so, a career that has taken Pete Mahon from St Francis, to Bohemians to UCD and finally St Pat’s is now at a crossroads. The future is slightly unknown and in an ever changing financial situation and League no one really knows what is going to happen. Pete Mahon has been involved with the League of Ireland and in soccer in Ireland for most of his life, he is as passionate now as ever and still has a lot to offer young up and coming players and seasoned professionals. He hopes to be back at Pat’s next season and if he is he will be hoping to improve on this season’s performance and as he rightly says “give the FAI Cup a right go because it’s the one the fans really want”.

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