Saturday 16 December 2017

McNulty makes timely return to help Orchard blossom

Enda McNulty: back in training
Enda McNulty: back in training
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Veteran Enda McNulty has made a return to the Armagh squad ahead of Sunday's NFL Division 2 final against Down.

McNulty returned to training late last week, ending speculation that he had retired from inter-county football.

His surprise decision means that there are now three survivors from the 2002 All-Ireland-winning team on the panel -- Steven McDonnell and Ronan Clarke are the others.

McNulty has been busy advancing his career as one of most progressive sports psychologists in the country and his work with Leinster rugby has been widely acknowledged.

His brother, Justin, who is an Armagh selector, confirmed: "Enda came back last week and is part of the squad now for the championship."

The McNulty brothers run Motiv8, a company which is running development camps for young athletes in Dublin, in July, and Cork, in August, this year that aims to build confidence among all walks of life.

Justin admits that reaching a Division 2 league final is a "bonus", with the main business of restoring Division 1 status having been achieved.

"This game will be great preparation for Derry three weeks later. Naturally we'd be thrilled to win it but we are championship orientated," he said.

"Down were streets ahead of us earlier in the year when we met. Their defensive system is good, Ambrose Rodgers is such a key figure at midfield and, to be honest, they dominated us in every position of the field," acknowledged McNulty.

Armagh have Ronan Clarke back in contention after he played for his club Pearse Og at the weekend having missed most of the league with an ankle injury. "There haven't been too many All-Ireland winners from Division 2 and that's why we feel we've taken such an important step," he said.

Armagh are managed by former Down captain and manager Paddy O'Rourke and McNulty admits that initially he was sceptical about the appointment.

"Most people in Armagh would have had an initial reaction of shock to the appointment, taking into account the strong rivalry between the counties. It didn't sit well with a lot of people but I have been nothing but impressed with the way Paddy has gone about his business with Armagh," said McNulty.

Meanwhile, Division 1 finalists Mayo have fitness issues over Enda Varley and Keith Higgins ahead of their match against Cork.

Varley, the team's leading scorer in the league, is struggling with a hamstring injury that forced him out of the last game against Cork, while Higgins picked up a knock against Monaghan and has resumed only light training.

Ronan McGarrity and Seamus O'Shea, concerns last week, should be in the mix when John O'Mahony names his team on Thursday night.

Cork must plan without Graham Canty. He sustained a shoulder injury the last day against Mayo and missed a weekend date with his club. Also out are Pearse O'Neill (broken thumb) and dual player Eoin Cadogan, who has a stress fracture in a foot.

Irish Independent

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