CORK City goalkeeper Mark McNulty has experienced a lot during his 20 years with the club.
He’s won League titles, FAI Cups, played in Europe, won promotion and also endured a relegation campaign. Although, McNulty won a league title in 2005 and a double in 2017 with City, it’s the 2016 FAI Cup winning team that the goalkeeper believes were among the best during his career with the club.
“I would probably think that the best City team I have played in is the 2016 team. With the 2005 team; I didn’t play many games. They were some unbelievable players in the 2005 team and if you could take a bit of both (2005 and 2016 team), you probably would.
“The 2017 was exceptional but when I think of the 2016 team, we had Kenny Browne, who was one of the best centre-halves that I have played with and he wasn’t part of the double-winning side. Greg Bolger was there. Healers [Colin Healy] was there.
"I just think the 2016 teams was nearly better than the 2017 team.
“I don’t know how we didn’t manage to win the league in 2016 when I think of it. It’s a strange one. When you look at 2017 team compare to 2016; Kenny Browne, Healers and Marky Sull (Mark O’Sullivan) had left, and would you think losing players of that quality would make the team weaker or stronger? I would say weaker, so that’s why I would say the 2016 team.”
McNulty has player with some of City’s greatest ever players such as former Republic of Ireland player Kevin Doyle, Sean Maguire, Dan Murray and Roy O’ Donovan but one player stands out above the rest for the 40-year-old.
“The one player I always remember, and I remember the first time I saw him because I didn’t know of him at the time, and I was thinking, ‘how good is this guy’. I remember myself and Phil Harrington sitting down after his first training session and talking about how good he was and it was John O’Flynn. I could not believe how good he was.
“He was unbelievable. Every time he took a strike; it was a goal. If someone took a shot and it dropped on the line, he would be there to toe-poke it in. He was flying fit at the time and everything he done went right and I just thought, he was unreal.
“There were others. Dave Mooney was a serious finisher. You could look at Healers and Dan Murray. Mooney was probably the best finisher. If you saw him in training; he would just go through the motions, then all of a sudden, he would get the ball and put it into the top corner. If he hit ten strikes in training; it was ten goals. Even on matchdays, he might not do much in the game but he would still score a hat-trick just like that. His finishing was frightening.”
As well as being part of the playing staff at City, McNulty is also the goalkeeping coach in the club. Apart from goalkeepers needing to be technically better than they were in the past, the City stopper has noticed another trend developing with keepers.
“I am doing my Goalkeeping A-Licence and we had a presentation about trends, that we had to look into in the Euro 2020 tournament. What I noticed, and I also was aware of it because it does annoy me is; set-pieces in the Premiership in England. You never see players in and around the keeper. Keepers always have about six yards of space.
"There’s no pressure on the keepers. In the Euros, it was like what we are used to in the League of Ireland, where the first thing you do with a set-piece is get fellas in on top of the keeper. They had fellas in on the keeper and balls were pumped in and top of them, and there were a lot of balls dropped. Keepers were punching a lot.
"There were a lot of mistakes made by keepers because they are not use to it. Is that a trend? I don’t know. Is it that it’s only certain keepers teams are targeting?
"I just noticed that balls in on top of keeper was huge in comparison to the Premiership. People should watch the Premiership the next time there is a corner and see are there players in around the keeper. More often than not, there won’t be.”