McNulty's arrival in camp will bring positive changes


There are six days remaining in January, leaving 11 months in 2013. How many of you have New Year’s resolutions? How many of you wrote them down? How many of you committed that note to a trusted colleague or friend or relative? How many of you will revisit those resolutions at a future, predestined date?

How many will confidently open that envelope in the knowledge that all or most of the resolutions have been achieved? How many will feel amazing because of these achievements?

Back in 2006, when coaching Lansdowne, I contacted Enda McNulty regarding goal-setting, with an eye to the final day of the AIB League.

I had got to know him in David Lloyd Riverview. I was there as part of a professional team and he was there as an elite, but amateur, intercounty footballer with many successes, an All-Ireland the obvious highlight.

He was far from the biggest athlete and certainly in the shade of some of our lot. In the gym there was a coldness about his focus that I at times struggled to warm to, or even understand.

On reflection, it was my immaturity with regard to the concept of professional sport.

To McNulty, professionalism had nothing to do with payment. Two fundamentals set him apart from any other “motivator”. “Don’t talk about the bulls until you’re in the bullring” is a phrase he employs and McNulty has been in the white-hot arena that is elite sport and has won but more importantly, he has also lost.

His losses far outweigh his wins, which is very helpful when most of us lose more often than not. He understands this and feels it and often stares at you blankly when you’re at a low ebb and simply replies to your “why?” with “why not?”

Add several academic qualifications to his insatiable hunger to cross-fertilise his knowledge with other sporting codes and businesses around the world.

What can be achieved

Every moment of his life accounted for, be it performance, family, sport, or business and sharing the gym with him educated me on what can be achieved.

That was why I wanted him involved with Lansdowne and we met in his house for breakfast.

After a green tea and a slice of plain toast (honest!) we planned what direction the team should travel in based on their obvious talents, weaknesses and less obvious strengths.

The squad, in the main, had not heard of him before but within minutes were sucked into the world this corner back occupied.

The premise of his first talk was for the players to fully understand why they were partaking and what could be achieved, and how, in setting goals, each individual had his own responsibility.

In particular they were intrigued by the concept of rewards. McNulty had painted his typical week which exhausted and frightened the room.

He’d conduct a weekly self-assessment, analysing the previous week, but not just in the sporting context, for his philosophy goes far beyond that. He would grade his week in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, family, fun etc.

This was a very strange concept to us all, especially the idea of grading a previous week in all those core life aspects in conjunction with the physical training. Then he would plan his coming week, in terms of his long term and medium term goals

To this day I follow a version of McNulty’s regime, so powerful was his influence.

However, my weekly reward is a tad different to his. The obvious question eventually arrived from the floor of these very amateur (but talented) Lansdowne players. “Enda, after you have set your weekly goals, followed them to the letter, enhanced and challenged your life and punished your body for the week how do you reward yourself?”

Frothy cappuccino

If, and only if, he made it through the week as planned would he head down to Coffee Society for a well earned ... frothy cappuccino. And then it would all start again!

Mentoring is clearly not a one-size-fits-all process, but Brian O’Driscoll, our greatest ever player, has valued it and one would wonder where the extremely-talented Tony Buckley might be had he met McNulty 10 years ago.

The Ireland squad are no doubt answering the “why” this week.

PS Nobody is above the coach and Declan Kidney must be in charge. And if that be the case what is his burden, more of which next Friday.

McNulty’s arrival into the Ireland camp will bring many positive changes to the culture that exists, most notably in the senior management, but why has it come so close to the Six Nations: risky?

He has many qualities but uppermost is a ruthless pursuit of excellence married beautifully to a human way where I wonder how he would have handled this week’s leadership transfer.

Change should always be embraced but I would assume that months back Kidney, giving due respect to our greatest ever player, met with O’Driscoll and discussed how they could maximise his role both as player and leader.

If Kidney failed to do this and didn’t give O’Driscoll the opportunity to choreograph his exit while ensuring leadership succession was a priority, it would be a real shame.

PPS What’s the role of the Irish Wolfhounds and why isn’t Stephen Archer in the squad?

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