Express & Star

Futsal put Walsall's Ronan Maher on the right footing for professional game

Walsall teenager Ronan Maher has credited his futsal background for playing an instrumental role in his early development as a footballer.


Maher will return to Walsall in the summer after a second electrifying loan spell at local neighbours Rushall Olympic in the National League North.

The 19-year-old helped guide the Pics to safety during their debut campaign in the sixth-tier.

Rushall also lifted the Staffordshire Senior Cup and Walsall Senior Cup, with Maher scoring in a 3-1 win over Chasetown in the latter final at Bescot last week.

In the end, Maher finished his loan at Rushall with four goals and six assists in the National League North, but feels his experience in futsal has provided him with the technical ability to express himself on the pitch.

He said: “I’d actually started playing football properly from around the age of four or five.

“I used to go to Villa soccer schools in the summer and I slowly went into futsal where I’d learned a lot of my ball skills and my technical ability.

“Futsal was brilliant. My ball control and ball retention is one of my main attributes, which I spent a lot of time honing those skills, especially in futsal.

“Everyone wants to be able to see what you can do on the ball and it’s helped me a lot in my career.”

Before joining Walsall at the age of 11, Maher also spent four seasons at Albion.

“At under-7s, I was at Villa and Albion and then I had to choose one at under-9, so I went with Albion because it was closer to home,” he continued.

“We used to play against teams like Manchester City and Liverpool and I trained with top coaches at the time.

“I was eventually released and that was when I had the chance to join Walsall. I went there for one training session and had a tournament in Nottingham the next day.

“After that, Walsall asked me to sign and I have been there ever since.”

His technical ability has been a visible quality from an early age, but Maher believes his time at Walsall, and especially his loan at Rushall, has improved his off-the-ball game.

“The biggest area to improve was probably my out of possession game,” he noted.

“That’s come on leaps and bounds. I understand the game and my positioning a lot better.”