Former Pike Rovers manager Mike Shiel took time out to speak to us about his time with the Limerick District League giants this week.
On the week of a very important cup tie for his former club against Fairview, nobody knows more about FAI Junior Cup final heartbreak than Shiel who lost two finals in two separate spells with the Hoops. He felt that he had taken that group of players as far as he could in his third spell.
“I just didn’t feel that I could bring it forward in the way that I wanted to anymore. I had been there for 20 months at that stage and we had put a lot into it.
I had spoken to players from other clubs during the summer and I was getting poor answers from them and to be honest, these players weren’t even as good as the players that I had. It would have been difficult for me to go up to players who were there and bringing in substandard players to take their place.
We started training and I had my programme laid out and I just felt that the players weren’t buying into it the way that I wanted. My character is to get better every training session and match. I felt that that the players at the club had probably had enough of me. I was getting texts to say people were going back to play Gaelic football which I didn’t want.
I wanted the 20 months which preceded it to mean something. I didn’t want to be like other junior managers who are at the end of the phone for whenever a fella texts when he feels like it. I wanted to do it before we had started the league as it would have made it more difficult to get a manager in.”
The former Limerick FC assistant manager is happy with the contribution and time he put into the job over his third stint and feels that his recruitment resurrected a team who were on the decline when he arrived.
I really enjoyed it (third spell with Pike) and I thought we were building something. When I came in, the club wasnt in great shape. There was a lot of talk of players going to other clubs.
Although they had won the Munster Junior the year before, they had already lost 4 or 5 games that season and when I came in some of the players were rubbish to be honest with you and their attitude was rubbish. We brought in a few different systems and brought a few young lads through that minor team.
In the summer of 2018, we brought in 4/5 really good players who really bought into what we wanted to do. We were unbeaten in the league and I’m not sure any team has ever went unbeaten in that league and through a decision off the field, did not win it.
Shiel is heavily critical of the decision by the Limerick District League Committee to award Janesboro the three points for the objection against Regional on the week of the Munster Junior Cup final, which he felt may have affected his side as it effectively handed the league title to Janesboro as a result.
I felt at the time that the atmosphere in Limerick football had turned toxic and I was burnt out from it all. There was letters being written instead of going out and winning matches.
It was rubbish. I decided at that point that it was time to go. The last game against Fairview in the Lawson Cup was our first loss in 90 minutes all season. It was quite a good season in that respect.
We didnt get the medals and only got one trophy but in the season previous we reached two finals and won on penalties in one and lost on penalties in the other. We lost to St. Michaels in the Munster Junior final and didn’t deserve to win that final as Michaels were the better team.
Shiel laments what he perceived as a lack of character among certain players during the final as goalkeeper Gary Neville, who was not a designated penalty taker at this point, took a penalty and missed as Michaels won the trophy.
If your goalkeeper is kicking the ball wide in one of the finals in your own backyard and players who have huge experience wont go up to take the penalty kick, I am not sure you can think much else.
That really upset me and I dont think I ever recovered from that over the summer. What happened at the beginning of the summer told me that I was right in what I thought on that night and what I thought since.
The former Hoops boss was strongly linked with a role with Aisling Annacotty in October but he has poured cold water on the suggestion that he will return to the Limerick District League anytime soon.
“Not really no (return to the league). Football will decide whether I go back to it or not. I’m not sure the people of Limerick will have the appetite for dealing with me whether they are on the Limerick District League Committe or whether they are on the committee of a club.
I probably have a reputation of being hard to deal with. If you speak to Jan Malone (Pike chairman) I think he would probably say the opposite. I like things to be done properly but some people in Limerick dont like to be told how to do things.
The administration of the Limerick District League is a carbon copy of the FAI in a local version. Nothing surprises me as these people have been around a long time and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.”
Shiel’s former club take on old foes Fairview Rangers in the FAI Junior Cup last 16 on Sunday on what is sure to be a tense affair. Shiel feels it will be tight but thinks Pike may just edge it.
“I am happy that Fairview and Pike’s rivalry is back. They are the two biggest clubs in that city for me. There have been some pretenders recently but certainly in my time hearing about Limerick football, Fairview were the biggest club that I heard about.
Then Pike came along with Declan Considine and they won all before them. They have been the two best clubs over the last 20 years. It’s nice to see them back in the most important game in the city this year.
Personally, I never liked those type of games as I think they become a law to themselves. The teams have a lot of knowledge of eachother and the referees will be local and they can get caught up in the emotion of it.
It is a difficult one to call. I think Fairview will fancy their chances but if I was to call it,Pike just have enough and have been in that situation several times over the last three years so I think that will get them over the line.”