Mentalist McNulty reckons Irish rugby has laid excellent foundations

‘Great work done during Six Nations will pay off’

Enda McNulty could talk sense until the cows come home. Corner back on Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland winning side, he is ensconced in the Irish camp these past three weeks in his role as performance psychologist.

His company Motiv8 focuses on human performance, and not just in the sporting world.

“About 80 percent of our revenue would be corporate. The big organisations like the Intels, the Digicels, Microsoft...

They work with CEOs on the fundamentals of leadership.

“A lot of these companies are asking us: what is it that Paul O’Connell does that we can inspire our work force? How has Brian O’Driscoll matured as a leader over the last four years and how can we learn from that?”

He’s famously close to O’Driscoll, having played a significant role in getting Ireland’s most capped, top try scorer out of a mid-career slump.

That was an easy one. McNulty told him to look at his best moments on YouTube. Les Kiss is a fan. Michael Cheika too.

“ After the Castres defeat in 2009 he (Cheika) phoned me on a Sunday night to say you are going in to work with the team tomorrow morning to work on their mental toughness.

"So Cheika wanted us to work with the overall squad, then with the leadership group, the coaches and one on one with players, so there's four conduits. Declan (Kidney, when coach of Ireland) wanted a different approach, to work supporting players one on one.

"Les, on this tour, has wanted group workshops, where we have established the mission for the tour and established what is the mental approach required for this tour."

McNulty makes an interesting statement about this past, injury-cursed season for Irish rugby after which the head coach got the bullet.

“I would say, overall, having forensically observed the Six Nations I would say massive positives (came out of it).”

It was pretty grim viewing from the press box.

“Results wise, I would agree, and I wouldn’t in any way sugar coat that, having been involved in sport myself . . . but the work ethos of the players, even after defeat, the professionalism of the back room staff, was incredible.

“The cohesion of the Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht boys was very strong.

“In order to be successful in sport you need to lay the foundation stones very firmly very early. I believe there are granite building blocks being built at the moment in Irish rugby that will bear fruit down the line.

“In the Six Nations I think there were significant building blocks put in place.”

He mentions an old Armagh football mantra (“winning IQ”) when talking about how this young Irish team got over the line in Houston last Saturday. He mentioned the rise of new leaders like Devin Toner and Peter O’Mahony.

"In Leinster a few years ago Leo Cullen was asked by the younger players on the team to define what leadership is. There was complete silence in the room, I remember it vividly. Leo reflected on it and said, 'Leadership is just what you do every single day'

“You need to lead by example. Paul O’Connell is the epitome of that ethos.” “Humility!” he adds. “The humblest is always the greatest.”

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