McNultys’ search for success in Portlaoise and Cardiff
The modest surroundings of O’Moore Park in Portlaoise are in rather sharp contrast to the majestic arena that is the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
But tomorrow two of Ireland’s most high-profile sporting brothers will be united in their bid to achieve success at both venues.
While Justin McNulty will send his Laois side into battle against his native Armagh hoping to see an early tonic gained in the Allianz Football League, Enda will make his debut as the newly-appointed Ireland rugby team’s performance psychologist against Wales.
It was as teak-tough defenders that the Mullaghbawn brothers led the fiery resistance as Armagh roared to their only All-Ireland title to date in 2002. Since then the pair have been domiciled in Dublin having thrown in their lot with the Ballyboden St Enda’s club.
And while Justin’s career in gaelic football has projected him into mainstream management, Enda has made a significant impact in business and sporting circles south of the border as a top-class motivational speaker and sports psychologist.
When Ireland came calling recently, he was only too happy to respond and throughout this week he has had a key role in preparing the side for their clash with Wales.
If Ireland’s form in the Autumn Internationals was less than inspiring, then this has only served to render Enda’s input even more necessary but that’s a challenge to which he is only too ready to respond.
“This is a big career step for me but it’s in essence what I am all about,” said Enda.
“My brief is to ensure that the players are in the proper frame of mind to give of their very best and to maximise the self-belief, pride and ambition that are in the squad.”
It was Ireland team manager Mick Kearney who perhaps best articulated the vital nature of Enda’s input when he said: “The gains are so tight at international level that the winning and losing of a game can depend on the tiniest little thing and if Enda can actually bring a half or one per cent extra to the players, to the team or the environment, then that could be the difference between winning and losing.”
While the Millennium Stadium is certain to be a raging cauldron, the intensity will be no less marked when Laois and Armagh lock horns later in the evening.
Justin McNulty makes no bones about his desire to bring Laois into Division One but acknowledges that new Armagh manager Paul Grimley, coach to the 2002 side, shares the same goal.
“We want to be playing against the top sides and we feel it is important to get back up into Division One. We need a win at home tomorrow to get us off on the right foot,” said Justin.
Meanwhile Grimley, yet to sample his first victory as Armagh boss, said: “It’s always tough having to travel in your first league game but we have to have faith in ourselves. Justin McNulty makes it clear that he wants to take Laois up but having been relegated last year, we would like to make a speedy return to the top bracket.”