Harry McNulty was speaking as part of TritonLakes sponsorship of the Ireland Sevens.

'He brought that incredible professional mindset' - Ireland 7s captain McNulty on Hugo Keenan

The 15s star has been a striking addition ahead of the Olympic Games.

IRELAND SEVENS CAPTAIN Harry McNulty has hailed the positive influence of Hugo Keenan on the group ahead of the Olympic Games.

Ireland 15s star Keenan returned to the set-up in May and was selected for Paris 2024 last week.

The Leinster full-back missed the URC play-offs and will also miss the Ireland 15s team tour of South Africa next month as he focuses on Sevens.

And McNulty says his addition has been a boost.

“Hugo was a big part of the team running into the qualification to getting us on the World Series,” he tells The 42. “He played a lot for us, and has always been in touch and a good friend over the years.

“Time kind of flies, but it didn’t seem like that long ago that he left. It was amazing to see everything that he’s done for the 15s team and being one of the best players in the world.

“Him coming in was really good. I think everyone embraced Hugo coming in, and everyone has a lot of time for him. He’s one of the nicest guys you’ve ever met. He came in very much with a professional mindset.

“I’m pretty sure he reached out looking for all the information he could get before he came in. He had the names of calls already before training on his first day, and had run through things. Even if he wasn’t getting them 100% right, he already brought that incredible professional mindset in that he was here to give it everything and show that he wanted to be a part of this team, and not to just kind of think he’d get thrown in and that was the way it was going to be. That’s what you want from a player coming in.

“You want them to be really professional, really forward, in terms of how they want to be involved in this team, that they want to know everything, and they’re not just going to go through the motions.”

hugo-keenan Hugo Keenan in action at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Madrid earlier this month. Martin Seras Lima / INPHO Martin Seras Lima / INPHO / INPHO

McNulty previously said any Olympic recruits needed to show dedication to the programme and not see it as a “smash and grab,” so that was particularly important.

He continues: “In terms of training and stuff, he’s not going around thinking he knows everything. He’s as if, ‘I’m learning, learning, learning.’

“He wants to get better. He wants to do everything right. He wants to do the best for the team and the squad and the players around him. That’s always great.

“It’s great to have him back. I’m a really good friend of Hugo’s, and he has slotted in without any problems.”

Ireland learned their pool fate last night. A difficult assignment awaits in Pool A where they are pitted against top seeds New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. They make up three of the top seven in this season’s world series, where Ireland finished second overall.

“The way Sevens is gone now, every pool in every tournament is essentially difficult,” McNulty, who also played at Tokyo 2020, says.

“It was to be expected because it was done with your seedings over the last two years. You can’t really think about it too much, you just have to understand what style of play you want to do against those teams.

“South Africa are a team we’ve had a lot of good battles against. We enjoy playing them, and they probably enjoy playing against us as well. New Zealand’s a massive test for us. I think we’ve played really well against them over the years. It’s just literally one or two moments which has led to us losing, but then, we’ve gotten some wins against them too, which is kind of getting that off your back and and knowing that you can [beat them].

“Japan weren’t on the series this year, but they’re obviously going to go full strength and they’ve got a lot of international players who have played 15s level international that will probably come across. They’ll be tough.

“Look, it’s just about playing our own game. It’s very exciting, that’s the way that I see it.”

harry-mcnulty McNulty at training last week. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

McNulty also spoke about the positive impact of new “culture coach” Daragh Sheridan and the significance of the team’s consistency through the season — even in defeat as they reached every quarter-final possible — and how they must carry that into the Olympics.

Expectation is growing after Ireland secured four medals on the World Series, but that must be tempered too, he warns.

“I think everybody’s very hopeful from a public point of view, that we can go and do something very special for Team Ireland and try and collect a medal,” McNulty concludes.

“I’ve said it enough times that I’m quite superstitious in the words that I say. Obviously, every Olympian’s dream is to win a medal. I think for us, it’s realistically that consistency.

“We want to try and make sure that after the first two games, we’ve qualified for the quarter-finals, rather than going into the third game and that being a decider. Those quarter-finals are where it all takes place. You win that, you’ve put yourself within a medal opportunity straight away.

“Every team this year has made it to some sort of final or semi-final. It’s highly competitive. Every single team has the capabilities of beating the other teams in the pool, where maybe in other sports, the teams at the top are going to win 100% of the time compared to the teams at the bottom of the pool. The rankings probably don’t mean as much as other sports.”

TritonLake became the title sponsor of the Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams in June 2021 and are delighted to continue to support and celebrate the success of both teams over this season so far and the coming season.

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