By his own admission, the 2011 season was a tough one for Shane McFaul. He enjoyed the highs and lows that only the League of Ireland can bring in its own unique way. He played in every single game of St Pat’s European adventure, putting in a number of impressive performances before the journey ended in defeat and a player revolt.
On the domestic front, there was more mixed emotion for the talented midfielder. The statistics will show he played in 43 games for Pat’s in 2011. However, McFaul knows he had become a peripheral player towards the season’s end. This goes a long way to explaining this recent transfer out of the league.
“Last season was a tough one for me” he told Extratime.ie. “I was in and out of the team. I played every game in Europe and thought I did quite well in those but for one reason or another I wasn’t in the team when I thought I should have been.
“We came up against difference styles of play in Europe and I thought I did well in those games. I’d always wanted to play abroad cause I thought it would suit my style of play. Then as the season came to an end I decided to look at other options.”
While it’s easy to understand McFaul’s desire to seek more game time, his chosen destination certainly came as a surprise to many. FC Haka of the Finnish Premier Division or Veikkausliiga could hardly be considered a household name. But the former UCD and Sporting Fingal man was well advised on the matter by a fellow Irishman and Haka’s player of the season.
“I’ve known Shane Robinson since I was 15. I did an FAI course with him. I saw how well he was doing with Haka since moving over there and I asked him about it. He spoke to Sami Ristila (FC Haka manager) and just asked him if I could go over and train with the team for a few days.
“I went over on the 15th of December. I trained on that Thursday and then had a match on the Friday. It all happened so quick that it’s still sinking in. I knew that kind of football would suit me but I’m surprised at how quickly I settled in there. When I got over there I loved it from the very first minute.”
And while it’s clear the midfielder is on a high, he admits leaving St. Pat’s was not a decision he took lightly especially given the change in management at the club. McFaul’s former boss at Sporting Fingal Liam Buckley has recently been made manager of the Inchicore club. McFaul says would have welcomed a reunion if the circumstances had been different.
“When Liam (Buckley) took over I sat down and had a chat with him. It was unfortunate because I’ve always wanted to play for Liam again after what happened at Sporting Fingal. With him being manager of Pat’s would have been perfect so the decision for me to go over was probably the toughest of my life but I’m not going to have any regrets. I think I’ve made the right decision and I’m looking forward to it.”
He is also quick to rule out a move within the league in a sign of his high hopes for St Pat’s future.
“To be honest if the Haka thing hadn’t of come up and Liam took over I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else. I’ve loved playing for St Pat’s.” Indeed the u21 international had agreed to sign with Pat’s if his move to Finland had not materialised.
And unsurprisingly talk of St Patrick’s finds the playmaker in reflective mood. While he was disappointed to not feature more, he knows it was a good season overall for the Saints and regards their epic European voyage as one of the highlights.
“We did really well overall. We got through two rounds in Europe and came up against the best team I’ve ever played against and they were just too strong for us. Other than that, we got to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup and we finished fourth of the league.
“I think towards the end we’d played so many games – during the summer we were playing two or three games every week – that it really started to take its toll. But everyone at Pat’s last year should be happy because we had a great season.”
McFaul is a naturally upbeat person and his optimism is infectious. He reveals all his team mates have wished him the best of luck on his new journey. While it could be argued the 25 year old is, to a large extent, stepping into the unknown, he has few worries – least of all any language difficulties he may encounter in Finland. “I think they probably speak better English than me” he jokes.
"I’m really excited to be going over for the new season. It’s a great move for my career and it’s a chance to learn about different cultures. I think I’ll develop more as a player over there. We’re full time as well so that’s another major positive."
Fittingly, he concludes with a joke. McFaul developed a cult following with his weekly contributions to ExtraTime.ie last year and hopes to continue writing for the site in Finland. While there will be no chance for him to give the public his thoughts on Tulisa or the latest happenings on the X-Factor, he’s confident there will be no shortage of topics to write about.
“There won't be any X-Factor unfortunately but there’ll be a lot next season about all the blonde women over here. I have a lot to keep you entertained, don’t worry about that!”
I wouldn’t dare argue with him.