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Dublin: 12°C Monday 14 June 2021

'I don’t feel old' - Ageless McNulty could 'easily' play for Cork City into his 40s

The experienced stopper has no plans to retire, having recently signed a new two-year deal.

McNulty after the FAI Cup final.
McNulty after the FAI Cup final.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

A FORTNIGHT HAS passed since Cork City made history by wrapping up the double, but Mark McNulty admits it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“I suppose around the city there seems to be a lot more people chatting to you about football,” the FAI Cup final hero says, after winning SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month for November.

“There mightn’t have been as many before. But since we’ve done the double, everyone wants to be a part of it. Everyone wants to chat about the success we’ve had this year. I suppose it won’t be maybe until I retire and look back that it will sink in that we are the first team in Cork City’s history to do the double.

“It’s obviously a huge thing but I suppose at the moment because I’m still a player I enjoyed the few days that we had after the cup final, the celebrations. Then it was just back to normal, being a family man and getting on with things.”

Now the 2017 campaign is done and dusted, the goalkeeper has been keeping busy by attempting to obtain his Uefa B licence coaching badge in nearby Fota Island.

The long-term plan is to be fully-qualified by the time he does eventually hang up the gloves so a seamless transition into coaching can be made. But that won’t be anytime soon as the 37-year-old signed a new deal with his hometown club last week to bring him up to the end of 2019.

“There’s no sign of retirement yet, not at all,” he says. “Myself and John [Caulfield] have been discussing this for a while. Obviously, John must be quite happy with the way I’m performing and the way things are going for us.

“I feel fit, I don’t feel old, I don’t struggle to get up in the morning to go training. I’d like to think I’m one of the fittest lads still in the squad. As long as my fitness is good and as long as my form is still good, I’ll continue playing.

“Whether that is 39 or 41, it doesn’t bother me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s down to form and if I keep performing hopefully I can keep getting contracts.”

John Caulfield with goalkeeper Mark McNulty McNulty and Caulfield. Source: Sakis Savvides/INPHO

All going well, there’s no reason why the one-club-man can’t play into his 40s.

“I’ll keep playing until John tells me otherwise,” McNulty adds. “John is quite happy with me to be giving me a two-year deal at the age of 37, which takes me to 39. But for me, I still think there are many years left in me after that. It’s down to form and if I keep performing over the next two years, I could easily go to 40 and beyond.”

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He also credits the City backline with making his job considerably easier down through the years.

“To be fair, throughout my whole career I’ve always been behind top defenders like Alan Bennett, Kenny Browne, Dan Murray… so many top defenders. I suppose I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had an outstanding back four in front of me.

“Maybe that’s why I keep so many clean sheets, because the guys in front of me are so good. While I might get the plaudits for keeping clean sheets, it’s not just me. The whole back five should be taking all the plaudits. At the end of the day I might get two or three saves in a game and they are putting in a lot of blocks and stopping a lot of crosses. So they deserve a lot of credit.”

McNamee Cork Recent arrival Barry McNamee.

City have been extremely busy in the transfer window already with no less than six players –  Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Barry McNamee, Colm Horgan, Josh O’Hanlon and Aaron Barry — arriving in recent weeks as Caulfield prepares for their league and cup defence.

“To be fair, nearly everybody who was there last year has re-signed,” explains McNulty. “John has been building this team over the last three or four years and to see the success we’ve had in the season just gone, hopefully by keeping those players and adding the strong signings, it will make us better.

The players coming in will want to win honours. That’s why they have come to Cork. With these signings coming in, it makes us stronger. We’ll have a better squad, a bigger squad, a stronger squad. I can’t see any reason why, with the signings John has made, we won’t be up there challenging again.”

While Greg Bolger departed for Shamrock Rovers, Cork have managed to hold onto Karl Sheppard, who turned down the advances of Dundalk to extend his stay on Leeside.

“He is down here doing his Uefa B badge as well and I was speaking to him,” McNulty says of the forward. “Like he said, he always wanted to stay in Cork, he always wanted to play here.

“Obviously having a girlfriend up in Dublin, he doesn’t see as much of her as he’d like. But I think she was saying ‘Karl, if you want to stay in Cork, if that’s where your heart is, I’d be quite happy to move down’.

“Maybe his girlfriend helped change his mind or maybe it was the fact that he won the double and celebrating in front of the Cork City fans. But whatever it was, we are absolutely delighted because he is a top, top player.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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