MANAGING FINE Michael Moyles is pictured during his time as the Mayo Junior manager in 2013. Pic: Sportsfile
Michael Moyles’ inter-county playing career ended abruptly
THE recent spate of Mayo football retirements got Michael Moyles thinking about his own departure from the inter-county scene 15 years ago.
Social media was still in its infancy, Twitter was only being developed, and players often retired without so much as a ‘bye or leave’.
That’s how it was for Moyles too.
In his own words he ‘ended up sort of floating away’ in 2006 after he was advised to stop playing contact sports by doctors and medical specialists in Ireland, the UK and the US after an MRI scan showed that a bone in his back had moved dangerously close to his spinal cord.
The injury was attributed to years of taking heavy blows on playing fields all across the country, not to mention being involved in a car crash on his way to Mayo training a few years earlier.
Moyles was told that if he continued to play Gaelic football – or any contact sport – another heavy blow to his back could leave him paralysed.
“Getting the news was obviously very upsetting but you just have to remember that there’s more to life,” the All-Ireland club winner told The Mayo News in October of 2006.
“If I’d found out later and kept playing on there was a chance I’d end up in a wheelchair.
“As far as the doctors and specialists are concerned, if I was in contact again there’s a chance that a bone in my back could sever my spinal cord.”
So he was left with no option but to draw a line under playing with Crossmolina and Mayo.
He admits such a dramatic and traumatic end to his inter-county career took its toll.
“My last game with Mayo was the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final [which they lost to Kerry],” he recalled last week. “I had to go for some tests and scans on my neck at the start of 2006 and I remember Liam Moffatt [current Mayo GAA chairman], who I played with all through my career in Crossmolina, and was a physio, was very good to me at the time.
“The initial shock at having to retire made me step back a bit from football for a while.
“I was 29 when I made the decision, and there was more than me at risk. I had to think about my immediate family and the strain and the worry that me playing on would have put on them.
“Of course, I’d love to have been involved in 2006 when Mayo got to the All-Ireland Final, it was a very hard decision to walk away from that. I found closure very difficult.
“There’s no doubt it can be a very dark place.
“I remember 2006 very vividly. I was very hurt at the time because I felt I could have done a job, I felt I could have contributed. But I had to think of my health and my family.
“It was before Twitter and social media, and players announcing they had retired really, so you just ended up sort of floating away.
“That’s where the GAA falls down a bit, I think. When players finish up with inter-county, something that’s been such a huge part of their lives for so long, there’s a huge void.
“I have filled that void with coaching and managing teams for the last 13 years.
“Of course you’d prefer to be playing, you want to play for as long as you can.”
That was one of the reasons why Michael Moyles ended his self-imposed retirement and returned to play club football with Crossmolina some two years later, in 2008.
Having reviewed the medical advice and weighed up the risks, the pull of ‘dabbling’ with the Deel Rovers proved too strong to resist.
In recent years he has also felt confident enough to wear the Green and Red of the Mayo Masters and only last season made a few cameo appearances with Enniscrone/Kilglass Gaels in Sligo.
“After a few years, I felt that I needed to go back and dabble in football again, to do a few bits and pieces,” he explained.
“I love the team environment. I love the dressing-room, the camaraderie, the quizzes, the few drinks, the social aspect of it. I love being around that sort of environment.
“I love the coaching too, thinking about the game, watching the game, and getting feedback from players and working with them to get better.”
Just as his 13-year management and coaching career would suggest.
Name: Michael Moyles
Did you know? As a player, Michael won six Mayo SFC medals with Crossmolina, three Sigerson Cups with IT Sligo, and a National League title with Mayo.