HARRY MCNULTY FINDS himself with the Munster Academy via Bahrain, London, New York and Rockwell College.
The 20-year-old centre told TheScore.ie his true sporting love is ice hockey yet he finds himself chasing a developmental contract with Munster. He will line up against the Irish players that savaged Wales 26-3 in the last weekend. Joe Schmidt’s men are in Clonmel, Tipperary today and tomorrow for a Six Nations review, and training, camp. Members of the Munster Academy have been offered up as sacrificial lambs as Schmidt draws up the plays he hopes will unlock the English defence.
McNulty said, “It is a great opportunity to train with the Irish squad and I’m hoping to get involved in some plays with Brian O’Driscoll. As a centre, I look to players of his calibre and learn from what they do. We are not a province renowned for producing centres but I’m hoping to make the breakthrough into the senior squad and, one day, step up for Ireland as a Munster centre.”
Born in Bahrain in 1993, McNulty was soon on the move to London with his parents. They remained in England for three years before relocating to New York. It was there that he get involved in ice hockey and settled into defensive patrol. It was not until he moved back to Bahrain, at the age of 14, that he began to play rugby. His father played with the Bahrain Rugby Club [The Warblers] during the family’s two stints in the Persian Gulf country and was part of the invitational side that took part in the Hong Kong Sevens. He also played alongside former Munster legend Moss Keane.
Outside centre was his father’s position so, when the McNulty moved to Ireland in 2007 and began attending Rockwell College, he set his sights on making a mark in the role. His climb through the rugby ranks was gradual. He was in the ‘B’ teams from second until fifth year at the Tipperary school. It was not until midway through his final two years at Rockwell that he was promoted to the first team. He was part of the Rockwell team that lost the 2010 Munster Senior Cup to Presentation Brothers College. Revenge was sweet the following year when he started in the 9-3 cup final win over Pres.
The Munster Academy proved elusive when McNulty finished school and headed to Dublin Institute of Technology to pursue a degree. He stood out in an IRFU Sevens tournament, however, and was belatedly invited to join the academy. The bags were packed again and McNulty was enrolled in a food sciences course in University of Limerick. He also signed up with Garryowen.
Source: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Having scored a try in his last outing for Garryowen, McNulty is hoping to start for the club in their Limerick derby — Friday Night Lights — against Young Munster. Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan is acting as a coaching consultant for the club as they seek to avoid relegation following a losing start to their season. O’Sullivan, he says, has added simplicity and structure to the Garryowen backline that has borne fruit in recent games against Ballynahinch and Lansdowne.
Having played and trained with young Munster stars such as Paddy Butler, JJ Hanrahan and Ronan O’Mahony, he is hoping to follow their footsteps into the senior set-up. “Straight away,” he said, “you knew you were seeing something special with JJ. He has that little bit extra. He has made the step-up to the senior squad look effortless but, in reality, is such a hard worker.” McNulty has more than a year to run on his academy contract but is already eyeing a developmental contract. Appearances with Munster A
He started at outside centre for Munster A against Connacht Eagles last week and got to test himself against established provincial stars Dave McSharry and Miah Nikora. “I got 60 minutes at centre and thought I did well in that game. I’ve a lot of confidence in my game at the moment.”
With Rob Penney — a promoter of youthful talents at Munster — off to Japan in the summer, McNulty is hoping that the province’s new coach takes up the New Zealander’s mantle. Having stated his ambition to become a Test-capped Munster centre, McNulty expands on his theory why the province produces so many fearsome back-rows.
“That is the background of the province,” he said. “We have hard men, bigger men, growing up on farms that have that grit about them.” Munster has produced many a hardened, gritty, farming player but, if McNullty has his way, they may soon give a debut to an Bahrain-born food scientist that loves ice hockey.
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