McNulty won’t let it be free and easy for Dublin
Four Ulster managers face into major All-Ireland quarter-final assignments this weekend and of this quartet Justin McNulty perhaps embodies the lowest profile.
The modest and unassuming Laois boss, though, will find himself very much in the national spotlight when he sends his team into battle against Dublin at Croke Park on Saturday evening.
With James McCartan’s Down due to face Mayo immediately prior to McNulty’s task and both Jim McGuinness (Donegal) and Kieran McGeeney (Kildare) preparing for mouth-watering confrontations with Kerry and Cork respectively, the northern province will have a substantial input into the weekend’s action.
As McNulty prepares for his team’s glamour tie with the Dubs, he has been forced to digest one particular statistic that will surely help to fashion his game plan.
In surging to a surprise win over Meath in the fourth round of the All-Ireland qualifiers Laois committed 34 fouls — and such indiscipline could prove absolutely fatal against Pat Gilroy’s small army of free-takers.
If the Laois win was tainted with a layer of cynicism and an element of naivety, then a repetition of such flaws would certainly elicit severe punishment when it is considered that Bryan Cullen, Bernard Quinn, Diarmuid Connolly and even goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton are masters at extracting maximum benefits from placed balls for the Dubs.
McNulty though is remaining cool and strongly focussed as he approaches what is his biggest challenge since taking over the midland side.
“We have had a lucky draw and haven't met any of the big guns before now, but Dublin certainly are in this category,” said McNulty.
“Yet I still believe that this is not as high as Laois can go. We are there to compete. This is the one we are in now and it's the one we can concentrate and focus on.”
The Laois propensity for fouling certainly disrupted Meath’s game plan but Dublin are unlikely to prove as vulnerable.
“Obviously the experience they gained in winning the All-Ireland title last year will stand to them and they will be favourites, but that does not disturb us,” said McNulty.
“We don’t want our enthusiasm to get the better of us and descend into indiscipline.”