The big interview: Mark McNulty on the League of Ireland shutdown, training from home and his coaching ambition

The big interview: Mark McNulty on the League of Ireland shutdown, training from home and his coaching ambition
Cork City's goalkeeper Mark McNulty makes a save. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

CORK City goalkeeper Mark McNulty has warned anybody that is anticipating the League of Ireland returning in June to think again.

He believes what happened at St Patrick’s Athletic — temporarily letting go their playing and coaching staff — is an indication that the league will not resume on the proposed June 19 date.

The FAI and league officials recently drew up a list of scenarios to how and when the league returns, two of which involved the league starting up in June, including playing games behind closed doors.

However, McNulty does not believe these options are realistic and thinks that what Pat’s have had to do proves it.

“I just think that it was strange timing by St Pat’s to let their staff go if they think the league will resume in June.

“They have known for weeks that the plan was to return in June and continued to pay their players, so why now decide to stop?

“They must have heard sometime most of us haven’t. They must be very confident that the league won’t recommence until later down the line.

“If the league does start-up again in June then players would be back training in the middle of May and I don’t think Pats would have done what they did if they believed that was going to be the case.

“The idea of playing games behind closed doors doesn’t seem to be feasible for clubs either because of the amount of revenue they are going to lose.

“If games do start behind closed doors, who knows when supporters will be allowed back into matches.

“If a club has to go the rest of the season without supporters at games it could cost anything up to €300,000. Clubs cannot afford to be losing that sum of money,” McNulty said.

Another problem the City veteran sees with returning to action too soon would be the safety of personnel at games even if matches were held behind closed doors.

McNulty would much rather the league return at a much later date when it is safe to do so rather than there been a greater risk of someone contracting the virus and then the league having to stop again.

The 39-year-old explained: “I would love to be back playing again in June but I think that would be too early for everything to be safe. What happens if one player, coach or referee catches the virus because games resumed to soon because everyone was too impatient to wait another few weeks?

“I would imagine we would be back to square one and the league would have to stop and probably end up scrapping the rest of the season.

“We have to remember that people’s well-being is the number one priority no matter how much everyone wants to see the league return. We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime and more than likely never will again.

“Everything has changed and it’s quite scary going to the shops and seeing people with masks and gloves on.

“I just can’t see how things will turnaround so quickly that the league will be up and running again in June,” he added.

Although these are frightening and uncertain times, McNulty is looking at the positive sides of the lockdown. The keeper still manages to keep himself fit, whilst also spending more time than normal with his family.

Mark McNulty, in goal for Man United, and Ireland's Kevin Doyle in action at the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mark McNulty, in goal for Man United, and Ireland's Kevin Doyle in action at the Liam Miller tribute match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I’m still training away. We were giving fitness programmes by the club and I never thought I’d say it, but I really enjoy going out for a run every day.

“I’ve seen so many players post times on social media of their long distance runs but that type of training is not specific for football.

“When, in a game, is a player going to run five kilometres in 20 minutes without taking a break? I do more interval runs because that’s more suited to football fitness.

“I’ve been trying to do some weight sessions as well but all I can use is my wife’s weights so they aren’t that heavy.

“It’s been great spending time with the kids. I’ve never been able to spend so much time with my family.

“It makes me appreciate them even more. For instance, our Saturdays consist of going for a walk, coming home putting on a film — this week was Spiderman — and having popcorn and sweets with the kids, it’s been great.

“I know it’s not ideal been locked in but I was imagining what it would have been liked had these restrictions happened in November. The evenings would be much darker and the weather would’ve been worse.

“At least now, the kids can go out the back garden and get some fresh air and play.”

McNulty, the club’s goalkeeper coach, found himself back in the team after original first choice keeper Liam Bossin sustained a head injury in City’s game against Finn Harps.

Although he is turning 40 later this year, McNulty wants to continue playing as long as possible as well developing as a coach.

“I’ve really enjoyed being the coach and hope that I can continue doing so for the foreseeable future but I’ve still love playing and found myself back in the team before the league stopped.

“When it does resume, I hope that my performances were good enough that I will be considered for a starting place.”

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