Dom Roman – @DomRoman
The Ed looks at Shaun Mac’s three years at Plainmoor
Mac is out of town… It was no surprise this week when Shaun MacDonald confirmed his departure from the club after a three year stint at Plainmoor. There had been no hint that the Geordie would stay down here any longer, with his good mate Kyle Cameron leaving and footage of Shaun getting some friendly game-time at Dundee all but confirming it.
Shaun must have wondered what he’d let himself in for initially back in 2018. Gary Owers was the man in charge (yes I know you’ve tried to forget him!) and he set about recruiting a squad of players capable of competing in the National League South. Not the sternest test you’d have thought with a full time budget staying in place, but with little faith from the Yellow Army and a real mix of odds and sods captained by the unlikely leader Brett Williams, the Yellows stumbled into the season with little momentum around the club.
Mac was brought in to back up Portsmouth loanee Alex Bass, who was fishing for first team experience (apologies) at United. Bass looked the part, but injuries crept in and Shaun Mac grasped his chance to take the no.1 spot – a spot he wouldn’t relinquish again that season. At just over 6 feet tall the goalkeeper’s lack of dominant size appeared a concern, so did his lack of experience. However Shaun also had a real determination to prove himself, and as Gary Johnson arrived to revitalise the team, Mac went from strength to strength, winning the NLS player of the month award for December 2018. The good times were indeed rolling!
Other moments that spring to mind from that 2018-19 season include Mac striding up in the dying minutes of Bath City away and almost bagging a late equaliser in a crazy game of football; some superb stops versus Woking to keep the score reasonable and give the comeback a chance of happening, and a week later, a pitch-long sprint to celebrate with Jake Andrews at Plainmoor when the NLS title was confirmed against Eastbourne. A lovely moment for all of us. His contribution to that campaign cannot be under-estimated. A man full of aggression and intent to stop the opposition, and whilst the odd error occurred, it didn’t matter as the trophy was lifted at Plainmoor.
The keeper was rewarded with a new contract for the 2019-20 season, but was also joined by Lucas Covolan as Gary Johnson bulked up the position for a tilt at the National League. GJ kept faith with Mac for the start of the campaign, with mixed results as the side struggled with the step up in quality and the keeper came under criticism for his performance away at Solihull. By the end of August he was usurped by Cov, before returning for a win over Wrexham in October.
After that Gary Johnson became uncertain over the goalkeeping position, and the spot became curiously juggled between the two men. Very few debates have taken up as much time on the TT WhatsApp group as Mac V Covolan, with Mac’s attacking and proactive approach favoured by many over Lucas’s more careful and pragmatic one (this was before he started scoring last minute headers..). In the end neither chap completely won over the United faithful that season, with the team shipping too many goals and the inconsistent selection policy from GJ unsettling the back four. Mac eventually reclaimed his place before COVID hit, but it seemed unlikely that both would remain for 2020-21.
But remain they did, with Covolan starting the season on the pitch before Mac took over for 19 games mid-season, conceding 21 and keeping 6 clean sheets. Much like before, the keeper struggled to maintain the faith of the Yellow Army but with the team riding high the Geordie played his part and never shied from action, making smart stops and continuing to try and command his box with all the enthusiasm he had shown since his arrival. A difficult game at Weymouth saw 3 goals largely blamed on him, but he bounced back with three successive clean sheets in January to illustrate his character. Say what you want about Shaun but he has plenty of that.
In the end the drubbing at Maidenhead in March was one game too far for the goalkeeper and with Gary Johnson reinstating Lucas Covolan for King’s Lynn the following Saturday, he never got another sniff of first team action at United. A shame that his Torquay career ended that way, Mac had always given everything during his time at Plainmoor and nobody was more animated on the touch-lines at Ashton Gate than him as the Gulls searched for an equaliser. After months sitting on the bench, that was nice to see.
Potentially the ex-Blyth Spartans man can become a properly good goalkeeper. He is agile, positive and loves coming out to clear the ball or collect a cross, which defenders will always appreciate. The big challenge for him is improving his concentration and decision-making during games. Too often Mac would look comfortable for a long spell of the 90 minutes and then dash out of his goal unnecessarily – such rash decisions can be difference between being an average keeper or something better. With experience and increasing maturity he’s got a chance, the 100% effort will definitely be there I’m sure. Good luck Shaun we’ll keep an eye out for you.
COYY – Dom