McNulty relishing O'Moore challenge
THERE will be a host of familiar faces around Leinster to greet new Laois manager Justin McNulty next year.
It's an emerging trend for those involved with the 2002 Armagh side. With Paul Grimley in Meath, Kieran McGeeney and Aidan O'Rourke in Kildare and Joe Kernan having had a brief stint in Galway last year, the influence of the Orchard County's breakthrough team of that year is being felt far and wide.
That side was known for their mental fortitude, meaning McNulty could be exactly what a talented but underachieving Laois side need.
"I think if you asked the players themselves, they would probably agree that they haven't done themselves justice," agreed the Mullaghbawn native. "For whatever reason, they have underachieved.
"They know the reasons for that better than I do. But the players are hurting from that underachievement and they are willing to put in the hard yards to turn it into success."
McNulty is likely to be one of the busiest men on the inter-county circuit in 2011. He'll combine managing the O'Moore men with his role with brother Enda's company Motiv8 and his course at DCU -- where he is studying for an MBA, along with former Dublin captain Colin Moran, as part of a GPA initiative.
"It's going to be a tremendous challenge, but obviously there are parallels in terms of what is involved in the programme, the business and managing a county team. There are benefits across all three areas.
"I'll be a very busy chap, but being busy doing something you enjoy and love -- you couldn't be in a better place.
He has wasted little time since his appointment in August. A series of trials have already been held and a provisional panel has been selected ahead of the moratorium on collective training, which won't lift until January 1.
The 2010 panel have made themselves available en masse and McNulty denied that Laois suffered from a dearth of discipline within the squad.
Under previous manager Sean Dempsey, the Laois squad signed a player charter which outlined what was expected of them in terms of preparation.
"I don't see there being any more discipline or commitment issues in Laois than any other county. For one reason or another Laois -- and I don't know why, because I wasn't involved -- haven't been as successful as they possibly had the potential to be. That's my job to bring the team forward as best as I can."
McNulty also rubbished the notion that the midlanders are physically too small to make a serious impact and pointed instead to the talent in the county.
"I have met the players and seen the players stripped out and there are some warriors of men. I have been very impressed with the big physiques of the players in Laois, so I don't understand where that perception comes from.
"Joining Laois was a very difficult decision, because I was involved with Armagh as selector and coach. Armagh is my home county and to walk away from that was very difficult.
"I spoke to (Armagh manager) Paddy O'Rourke and he encouraged me to take the plunge and be the No 1 and a manager of a county team, which was something that I had aspired to.
"The fact that the Laois job came along was coincidental, but the timing was good. There were a number of options on my plate. But the reason I chose Laois, and it's very simple, is because I think there is huge potential there. They have the ability to go places. That's what made the decision easier."