29 Nov 2021

McNulty's focus on Stradbally and not 'distraction' of potential ten in a row

Interview Malachy McNulty

McNulty's focus on Stradbally and not 'distraction' of potential ten in a row
By Damian Moran @express_sport

Malcahy McNulty has the rare distinction of having won the Laois Senior Football Championship as a player and as a manager.

Those successes were achieved with Portlaoise and this Sunday he is hoping to guide his club to an historic tenth title in a row.

However while a potential decade of domination might be the headline grabber for most ahead of the game, McNulty and Portlaoise are not focussing on what might be the next line in the history books.

“Our approach to any championship is to take it one game at a time. All we've been focussing on is game by game. We've been trying to avoid furore with ten in a row. We see that as a distraction. We take every game as it comes. The mood is good. We're just trying to keep it quiet and keep the feet on the ground.”

Portlaoise have faced stiff challenges this year on their way to the final, including a replay with St Joseph's in the quarter-finals but McNulty believes his side has responded well to the challenges.

“We've been prepared for these mass defences. It's a team's prerogative to go out and try and beat you whatever way they see fit and do whatever they think is necessary to try and win. We've been happy with our performances to date. We've been happy with how we've addressed it in training and in the games to deal with different threats.”

Stradbally are the last team to have beaten Portlaoise in a county final and they have bounced back to form this year to reach the decider again. Malachy McNulty was quick to praise Portlaoise's opponents in the decider.

“There's a fantastic tradition and a fantastic history between ourselves and Stradbally. They have a confidence in themselves every year when they come out against us in the League or the Championship and they'll believe they can beat us. A team like that is dangerous so we'll just have to be on our guard. We'll have to be as prepared on Sunday as we have been for the other games and we won't be taking them lightly.”

Portlaoise are almost at full strength for the final with McNulty expecting just one absentee.

“Nearly everybody's okay. We had one scare the last day with Paul Cotter and unfortunately he won't be making a final appearance but other than that, we've a full squad to select from.”

While Portlaoise are not focussing on the 'la decima', the manager does agree that the experience gained from playing in nine consecutive finals.

“The experience is a help, there's no doubt about that. If you look back at the last few years, there have been scares along the way. We'd a close one in the final against Emo last year. We'd a very close one with St Joseph's this year and indeed, you could argue that at half-time in the replay, it wasn't looking good. But the collective experience and the experience of the individuals involved tells.

“They have fantastic character and resolve and when you are met with adversity during a game, the experienced players know what they have to do to get the result or to get through whatever spot we find ourselves in. It stands to us.”

Heading on to the field on Sunday, McNulty says his job is take make sure the players are solely focussed on the job at hand.

“We try to avoid the carnival of ten in a rows and the whole history. In 20 or 30 years time, whatever happens on Sunday, this period for Portlaoise will be fondly looked back on but when you are in the thick of it and are involved with the team, all we care about is the next game and getting the best out of ourselves performance wise.”

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