Kidney brings McNulty in to Ireland set-up

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

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.

It worked.

“Even now that I am out of that darkish place, I still use him now from a life coach point of view, whether it be things like public speaking, preparation and compartmentalising my life. It has progressed on from someone just giving you a little bit of an ego massage to structuring your life a bit better.”

McNulty is expected to work with the general group but also on a one-on-one basis so it should be seen as a similar role to what he has played with Leinster players, who first utilised his psychological assessment during the 2008-09 season.

“I’ve never worked with Enda before but I’m very much looking forward to it,” said Ulster’s in-form flanker Chris Henry. “I think it’s a great resource for us to have and myself personally I’ve used a guy called Hugh Campbell from Belfast who has worked with a number of the Ulster players.”

McNulty, managing director of the company Motiv8, has also worked with 400 metre runner David Gillick and professional golfer Shane Lowry, while current Ireland manager Mick Kearney remembers his work with the Ireland under-20s dating back to 2007: “Obviously he is a trained psychologist who knows all the trigger points in terms of mental drills and skills, rituals, mental toughness, but the secret of what Enda does is that he communicates and people can have all the training in the world but if they don’t communicate well in a team environment then it doesn’t actually work.

“There is evidence it doesn’t work all the time but from my experience working with Enda, his record with Leinster and other individuals he has worked with would lead you to believe that he is actually going to do an excellent job with us.”

Degree:In psychology and Masters in Sports Science.

2002:Member of Armagh side that captured the All-Ireland title and received an All Star to go with the seven Ulster titles he won over a 14-year Gaelic football career, which also saw him feature prominently for Na Fianna GAA club in Dublin.

2005:Established Motiv8. Mission statement: “To inspire, coach and guide individuals and teams to make most of their potential in the sports, business and educational sectors.”

2007:Began working with Leinster and Ireland rugby teams as a sports psychologist.

2013:Appointed performance psychologist for senior Ireland squad ahead of Six Nations.

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