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Boland tangled up in blue

Sport

FIGHTING SPIRIT Tooreen’s Fergal Boland clashes with Ballyhaunis. Eoghan Collins during the 2018 Mayo SHC Final. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Interview
Mike Finnerty

YOU can take the man out of Tooreen, but there’s no taking Tooreen out of Fergal Boland.
He may be living now in Turlough, outside Castlebar, and teaching in Balla Secondary School, but when The Mayo News caught up with him last week he was just back from a 30-minute ‘puck around’.
Usually Boland pops over to Parke or the back-pitch at MacHale Park with a bag of sliothars and enjoys the time alone with his thoughts.
Other days he has David Kenny or Kenny Feeney, his Tooreen team-mates and near-neighbours in Castlebar, with him for company.
The 27 year-old, who also plays football with Aghamore, enjoys nothing more than pucking around, sharpening up and getting his eye in.
It’s where he’s happiest.
Tooreen have just won their 32nd county senior title and next Sunday will face Galway’s Killimor in the Connacht Intermediate Final.
Fergal Boland, their speedy half-forward, cannot wait.
He knows this current Tooreen group are something special.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it, there’s just something in the village,” he says when you ask him what bonds them all together.
“I love going back to the hurling after the football finishes, there’s so much energy in the group.
“We’ve been on such a great run too that lads don’t want to miss out.
“We’re always with each other. A lot of us have invested so much in the hurling that we just want to make people proud.
“Personally, winning an All-Ireland with Tooreen would be my number one goal. None of us are looking past next weekend’s game, but an All-Ireland would be my number one goal.
“The last few years there’s an element of pressure with the football,” he adds.
“It’s more carefree, or there’s more enjoyment, with the hurling. I just get more of a buzz out of it.
“My home house is in the middle of the village, I can see the pitch out the window, so I grew up with hurling being a huge part of my life.”
But it hasn’t been all sweetness and light for Boland recently.
A regular in the Mayo senior football squad since 2017, a few weeks ago he was told by Kevin McStay that he wasn’t being included in the new manager’s pre-season training squad.
Boland admits that he didn’t see the call coming.
“I was awful disappointed for the first week or two; everything in your life revolves around Mayo football when you’re involved, and you’re always asking yourself what you can eat better or do better to be at your best in training that night,” he explains.
“I’d never gotten a call like that before, but I knew I was lucky that I had Tooreen to go back to, and focus on, straight away.
“I haven’t reflected on it a whole lot yet. . .”
You wonder how he reflects on his time in the Mayo squad under James Horan? Last season he only started three games and came off the bench in three more. In 2021 he featured just twice.
It had to be frustrating.
“When you’re training full-time you want to play every game,” he says. “I’d love to have played every week.
“But I know myself that I couldn’t have done anymore physically; I maxed out at training and I know I got the best out of myself.
“The biggest thing I’ll miss is pushing myself; you’re in a high-performance unit and I used to love challenging myself against the likes of Paddy [Durcan], Lee [Keegan] or Aidan [O’Shea].
Unsurprisingly, Boland picks out the National League Final win over Kerry in 2019 as the stand-out moment from his time in the squad.
“I played the whole game, my parents were there, and it was great to be involved in the first Mayo team to win it in 20 years,” he reflects.
He admits that he would love to break back into McStay’s plans, but right now his only focus is Tooreen, and their quest to defend their Connacht Intermediate crown (they have only lost one game in five seasons in the province).
This week he will be busy teaching PE and Maths in Balla SS; coaching the senior boys Gaelic football team or senior girls soccer team; helping out on the family farm in Tooreen if he’s needed (he got his Green Cert last year); or pucking around before it gets dark if he wants to clear his head.
“I wouldn’t be a great man for books or podcasts,” he laughs.
“If I want to switch off I’d get a big bag of sliothars and head back to the pitch for 45 minutes. I like time on my own like that.”
Next Sunday then his whole world will be the pitch in Athleague.
A chance for him to show what he can do.
“You don’t train so hard and put so much into it for challenge games.
“You want to play in big games and I’d be hoping my team-mates would look to me to perform to my best. I’d pride myself on that.”

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