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Trevor Howley interview

In pursuit of excellence

Mike Finnerty

IMAGINE you’re Trevor Howley. Five days a week you quit your bed at 6am in Foxford to drive to work on the Corrib Gas terminal at Bellanaboy.
Your ten-hour shift as an electrician begins at 7.30am and finishes at 6pm. Then you start your second job as an inter-county footballer.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays you point the car towards Castlebar, swinging into McHale Park in time for Mayo training at 7.30pm. By the time you’ve finished, showered, eaten, and driven home, it’s 10.30pm. Time for bed. Sleep comes easy.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, work is followed by a trip to the gym to tick the boxes on Mayo’s weights programme.
Then it’s home to eat a meal that has been prepared on the back of a nutritionist’s advice, ensuring you get the right mix of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and supplements.
You also double-check that you’ve drank the recommended two litres of water during the day.
On the weekends, you’re back at McHale Park on Saturday morning for a training session or a trial match, and Sunday is game day. When the preparation is put into practice.
You fill your spare moments by resting, stretching, and going to the pool.
That routine begins on January 1 each year and lasts until... Well, until whenever Mayo go out of the championship.
Despite his gruelling schedule, the real Trevor Howley (24) walked through the door of the TF in Castlebar last Saturday lunch-time looking relaxed, tanned and happy.
“I’m at this since I played U-16,” he smiled after running through a typical week with The Mayo News.
“I love playing football. As Andy Moran said today, ‘If you can’t play football with a smile, there’s no point playing it’. I’m used to it and I want to push myself as hard as I can and see how far I can go as an inter-county footballer.”
We’re here to talk about why he does what he does as well as next Sunday’s league final against Cork. And everything in between of course.

MF: The Meath game last year seems to be a big driving force this season?
TH: The Meath match, and how we performed that day, will always be mentioned among management and players. We were leaderless and we just weren’t up to the mark but I think it’s improved a lot since, mentally and physically. We knew coming out of that game that people had to improve their work-rate, tackling, shooting, whatever. People went away very hurt from that game and it was probably a good thing. They realised what they had to work on. Maybe what was said in the aftermath of that game hurt a lot of individuals too.

MF: What about your own performance in that game?
TH: I wasn’t happy with the way I performed that day. I picked up an early yellow card and that didn’t help my game. But the game was in the melting pot with ten minutes to go and that’s when we needed men to stand up and take control of the game, and go forward. We just didn’t have that though and it was probably more of a mental thing than a physical thing. But you have to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

MF: What’s playing at Croke Park like on a big day?
TH: It’s an amazing place. When you get there, you know you’ve worked hard to get there, and you have to keep working.
You have to blank out what’s around you and focus on your own game. Focus on what you have to do.

MF: You’ve played every game this year at centre-back. Does that mean your position is safe?
TH: Every game you play, you want to get better, you want to improve. There’s huge competition for places. You have to be pushing for your place all the time. You have to keep improving. Some games, I wouldn’t be happy with and I’d go home and analyse what I did wrong.

MF: Playing at six, I assume you’re seen as one of the team leaders now.
TH: When you’re out on the pitch there shouldn’t be just one or two individuals that are seen as leaders. Everyone in the panel should be a leader. Some days you might not be as vocal as other days but you have to be doing something to inspire others around you like putting in a hit or turning over the ball.

MF: Do you switch off from football at work?
TH: I’m enjoying work with the good weather and when it’s dry. When it’s raining it can be tough, you’re heading home wet or whatever. I like rehearsing my games, thinking about what I should have done or what I will do, but you’re busy at work. You have deadlines to meet, you have to get a lot of work done, but when you get to training you have to be 100% focussed.
As an electrician, working in Mayo, I know I’m very lucky. I’m working on a big project and it’s bringing a lot of employment to the county. If I was working in Limerick or Cork I’d be struggling to get home for training with Mayo. The more fellas you can have around Mayo the better for the team.

MF: What do you do to relax?
TH: If the weather is good, I really enjoy getting down to Enniscrone. You might walk on the beach, go out in the water if your legs are stiff, or you might just watch some TV at home and watch a few DVDs.

MF: Who is the biggest character in the Mayo dressing-room these days?
TH: I don’t know where Andy Moran gets his energy from but he’s as happy and as energetic as anyone I know. You never see him at training down or giving out. He gets a great thrill out of playing football and he’s a great help in the dressing-room if anyone had any nerves.

MF: How what you sum up John O’Mahony as a manager?
TH: His record speaks for itself. He handles the job very well, he handles the media very well, and he tells you what he wants from you. He analyses games and game-plans very well and his match analysis is spot-on.
He’s got huge experience when you get to finals. He knows how to handle lads, he knows what to say, what speeches to make. You can’t buy that.

MF: What would be a good day for you next Sunday?
TH: We’ve got Gerry Hussey, a sports psychologist involved with us this year. My plan is that I write out what I want to improve on.
Maybe five turn-overs, breaking balls, blocks, kick a score, help out your defence... When you’re reaching your goals, you know you’re happy with your game. Winning the first few balls is vital, get the confidence up.

MF: What will you do between now and Sunday?
TH: It’s all about getting your head right. The first ten or fifteen minutes will be huge. You have to figure out how you’re going to react if or when certain things happen.