AFTER years of being Cork City’s first-choice goalkeeper, Mark McNulty is focusing now on coaching.
McNulty has been a player-coach at the club for the last three seasons though he was still the first-choice keeper up to this campaign. The 41-year-old featured in 24 of City’s league games last season but has not featured this term.
McNulty is enjoying developing as a coach and doesn’t miss playing as much as he thought.
“Of course, when you have played so long there is always going to be part of you that will always want to be out on the pitch,” McNulty said. “Making that natural progression into coaching has made it a lot easier. I do continue to train, because, if called upon, I do need to be ready, but, for me, at this moment, it is all about helping Harry [David Harrington] James (Corcoran), and Corey (Chambers).
I remember the first home game, against Galway. Walking out with over 5,000 fans, I thought it would really hit me at that stage, not being involved in the game, but it didn’t.
“I wasn’t thinking about myself and that I was missing out. I was thinking about Harry and how big a moment it was for him. I know he had played in games at Turner’s Cross towards the end of last year, but this game meant a lot more.
“I just want him to do well. I get great pride in Harry making a save or coming for crosses.
“It used to be that I would get the thrill of keeping a clean sheet myself, but seeing Harry do it gives me just as much satisfaction. It’s strange because although it was only a few months ago that I was still playing, it feels like a lifetime ago.
“I won’t consider myself 100% a coach yet. I love going into the dressing room and having a bit of banter.
“I still put my bag in there in the morning, before heading to the coaching room. I think when I do officially retire from playing, not being part of the jokes in the dressing room is something that I will miss.”
McNulty made his first-team debut for City in 2005 and says that goalkeeper training has advanced since he started his professional career.
“It’s completely different now. Before, a keeper would be considered a top keeper if they were a good shot-stopper, but as everyone knows now, being a good shot-stopper will only get you so far as a keeper.
“It used to be that goalkeepers would do their own thing in training for 45 minutes, before joining up with the rest of the group for matches towards the end, but that has changed.
“Yes, keepers still spend time working on certain things in their own group, but they are involved in every possession drill in training with all of the team.
“It is the best way for them to get better with their feet because they are constantly under pressure when they receive the ball.
“Being involved in possession is much more beneficial for keepers to get the sense of being under pressure with the ball at their feet. Yes, we do technical work separately, but it’s much more different knowing that you will have time on the ball, rather than someone closing you down.”
City goalkeeper Harrington was recently called-up to Jim Crawford’s Republic of Ireland U21 squad and McNulty feels it is an accolade the 21-year-old deserves.
“I was delighted when he got the call. As I said, I take great pride in Harry doing well.
He is a special talent. He is a good shot-stopper, comfortable with the ball at his feet, and very confident coming for crossing.
“He really does have all of the attributes needed to be a top keeper. He is still very young and will get better.
“He will gain more experience by playing more games, which will, of course, help him. Of course, I try and give him advice, but there are some things you can only learn the more you play.
“People have to remember that he has only played 20 league games for the club. So, what he has done up to now is remarkable, considering how young he is and the amount of games he has played.
“That’s why I believe he will continue to improve and has a big future.”