The opportunity to become the new Blackrock senior hurling manager was one that was too good turn down for Louis Mulqueen.
The Clare native will succeed Fergal Ryan, who stepped down after the 2021 championship following a five-year stint in which the Rockies ended an 18-year wait for the Seán Óg Murphy Cup.
Most recently involved with Liam Mellows in Galway – where he won a county title in 2017 – Mulqueen’s first exposure to coaching was in 1984 when, as a dual Clare U21, his PE teaching experience was put to use as the sides’ physical trainer.
He was coach to the Clare side that won the 1997 All-Ireland minor title and later served on the senior management set-ups of Ger Loughnane, Cyril Lyons and Davy Fitzgerald, playing a key role in the 2013 All-Ireland win.
Mulqueen, principal of Rice College in Ennis, also served with Loughnane when he managed Galway while he helped St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield to win the All-Ireland club title in 1999.
Coming to Cork is a new departure, but he believes that Blackrock will be a good fit.
“I finished up after five years with Mellows,” he says, “and even the Galway spin was something I was reflecting on.
“Before Christmas, I had a few interested offers, there were a couple of teams in Galway and Clare, and I was kind of saying to myself that I had done that and been with county teams and that maybe a new challenge was on the cards.
“A few teams in Limerick came to me last year, but I stayed committed to Mellows for the fifth year. Limerick might felt like a break or a change but Cork was never on the radar, being honest.
“When the approach came, they had their research done on me and I met some of the players and club officials last weekend and you couldn’t but be impressed.
“It’s steeped in hurling and the players are so enthusiastic. You were to people that ate, slept and drank hurling and I’m that type of way myself. It’s a fabulous club and a fabulous set-up and a fabulous team and what are they doing wrong? Nothing, because they’re very competitive and they were top of the tree two years ago.
“Cork hurling has always interested and we’d always have had a respect for Cork hurling, inter-county and club. It’s a kind of a pure hurling. The tradition of Blackrock and the interest they have in hurling is second to none. They’re genuine hurling people and when I was talking to them, I felt at home.”
A key factor for Mulqueen is the sense of this being a durable relationship.
“I was adopted by Mellows for five years,” he says.
“They were making me lunch for the next day, you had your own parking spot. You were giving presents to the players’ kids at Christmastime, it was a family.
“When I was with someone, I was them for a long time. I was with Doora-Barefield for six or seven years and I was with Clare teams for 24 years and in Galway it was five.
“I was saying to myself, ‘You don’t want something that’s short-term, just going somewhere.’ The Rockies one really interested me and appealed me.
“You’d done the inter-county scene and seen the cauldron but then Mellows was a family affair and I was the manager and I liked that, taking bits and pieces of your experience from all of the other set-ups.
“If the Rockies think that helps them in some shape or form, we’ll work hard together to do it.”
The first step in that is assembling a management team and from there the new boos will look to immerse himself in Cork hurling.
“We’re putting together a backroom team over the next two or three weeks of people who can me familiarise myself with the club,” Mulqueen says.
“That’s where I will the help – I know the Cork championship is super-competitive and it’s open and it’s hard to perform in it, it’s filled with class players.
“It’s going to be a serious challenge but it really interested me. It was too good to turn down, if that makes sense.”