Kidney brings McNulty in to Ireland set-up
Declan Kidney’s addition of Enda McNulty to the Ireland coaching ticket shows the head coach’s willingness to embrace change as he seeks to secure not only this team’s future, but his own. We have, after all, entered the key period in contract renegotiations for many key Irish players – Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara – and, of course, Kidney himself.
Victory over Wales in Cardiff on February 2nd seems more important than ever.
This latest addition to the Ireland management by the 53-year-old – who wasn’t present for yesterday’s announcement in Carton House – is significant as the psychological preparation of Kidney teams has always been considered the Cork man’s strongest skill as a coach. That Kidney has invited a professional voice to oversee his main area of expertise is another significant change in the running of the Ireland squad.
A major restructuring has already occurred since tactical flaws were so sharply in evidence during the 2011 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales. Les Kiss has been handed the reins as attack coach, with Anthony Foley drafted in from Munster to co-ordinate the defence, with Kidney taking a less specific role at training.
However, it was evident last week the decision to replace Brian O’Driscoll as captain with Jamie Heaslip – to legitimise the new leadership group formed in November – was Kidney’s decision alone.
McNulty’s formal appointment yesterday will presumably be welcomed by O’Driscoll. It is well known the pair have a long-standing relationship.
And yet, it’s worth noting a recent interview with Total Rugby when O’Driscoll voiced concerns about a sports psychologist’s effectiveness in a team environment.
“It has helped at certain times,” said O’Driscoll, before adding: “I’ve been involved with a number of teams that have used team psychologists but I never thought they’ve worked as a collective because I find the team tends to try to deliver what they think the psychologist is looking for rather than being truthful. I think you can be truthful one on one.
O’Driscoll ‘Low point’
“I had a low point in my career, with no confidence whatsoever,” O’Driscoll continued in reference to his post-2007 World Cup blues. “I went and saw an ex-Gaelic footballer called Enda McNulty. I just wanted to get a kickstart to refind form.”
McNulty, an All Star corner back on the only Armagh team to ever win the All-Ireland, in 2002, provided a simple solution by telling O’Driscoll to type his name into Youtube.