His record speaks for itself - 15 trophies in 15 years. John McNulty has a phenomenal record in charge of Kilcar teams.
From taking charge of the Kilcar third team in 2001 to last Friday night’s Donegal U-21A Championship final, McNulty has guided teams to success on such a regular basis that is unequalled anywhere in the county in that time.
McNulty was just 24 years of age when he took the reins of the third team in Towney for the first time and in his first season led them to the Junior B Championship.
He has a clear memory of that first year success - the final against Lifford in the Mullaghderg Banks. “There was a mix of old and young players and I will always remember a block made by Declan Cannon at a vital stage. The mark of the ball was still on Declan’s arm after the game and he was making sure that everyone saw it. That night we celebrated and I really enjoyed being involved,” says McNulty, who has had an almost unbroken involvement with Kilcar teams since then.
On Friday night he was guiding the Kilcar U-21s to a second Donegal title in three years and it was his third U-21 title as a manager.
“I have worked mainly with the minors, U-21s and seniors. Most managers start out at underage but I seem to have did it back to front, starting with the third team and doing my apprenticeship there.”
He was just 29 when he took over the Kilcar seniors for the first time in 2006 and has had a number of periods at the helm at that level, winning two All-Ireland Gaeltacht titles as well as a Democrat Cup (League title) in 2014, bridging a 27 year gap for the Towney club.
A successful businessman, John McNulty is not known for the aggression which seems to attach itself to managers nowadays. His is a calm approach; doing things in a quiet and effective way.
“I always put teams out to do the best they can. We would work well with players. There is no need for much verbals. They have to be ready for what is in front of them,” says McNulty, who adds that the relevant preparation and watching the way opposing teams and players play is an important part “but it is more about preparing your own team.”
Asked what has kept him going over such a lengthy period (which is unusual nowadays), McNulty says it all down to enjoyment.
“The first year I was involved, I really enjoyed it and that is why I have been able to keep going.”
Winning is also an important factor in McNulty’s long association with Kilcar teams. “The feeling after winning a final is the greatest feeling in the world. You know that you have achieved something when you see all the smiles on the faces and the lifting of the cup. Going back to Kilcar with a cup is special - it is real GAA country with some of the greatest supporters.
“There is a great core of support there and that helps to keep everyone going,” says McNulty.
Alongside McNulty for much of his journey at the helm of Kilcar teams has been the quiet man, Malachy Haughey. Others who have played a big part include Kevin Lyons and Aidan Gallagher (who are anything but quiet). Along the way he has also been assisted by Rory Gallagher, Michael Carr, Neilly Byrne, Michael Molloy, Peter Hegarty and Seamus Gallagher..
“You learn from everybody but at the end of the day as manager, you have to be strong. But it is important to have people alongside you that you trust.”
As for the future, McNulty says “nobody knows”. His immediate task is to prepare the Kilcar U-21s for the Ulster U-21 Club Tournament which starts with a date with Monaghan champions, Magheracloone, on Saturday week, 23rd January.
“We haven’t really looked at that game yet, but we will prepare from this weekend on. Six of our players are involved with county squads so hopefully they will all be fit.”
McNulty will take charge of the Kilcar U-21s again next year and says they “will give it a lash” even though he will lose five of Friday night’s winning panel, among them Ryan and Eoin McHugh and Matthew McClean.
But at the other end of the scale, Brian O’Donnell and Gary Molloy will be eligible to play as they will be 17 this year. The wheel turning full circle again.
Of the present Kilcar senior team, McNulty has coached all of them apart from Michael Hegarty, Conor McShane and Patrick ‘Cricket’ Gallagher. “They are all almost as old as myself,” quips McNulty.
Asked if he would like to have a crack at managing at county level, he again doesn’t rule anything out. “Probably if it came my way (the chance) I would look at it, even in a helping capacity,” says McNulty.
Now there’s an offer that should be taken seriously.
John Mac’s record
2001 Junior B Championship
2002 Third Team League
2003 Reserve League
2004 Reserve League
2008 All-Ireland Gaeltacht
2010 Donegal Minor Championship
2011 Donegal U-21 Championship
2011 All-Ireland U-17 Gaeltacht
2012 Donegal Minor Championship
2012 All-Ireland U-17 Gaeltacht
2013 Donegal U-21 Championship
2014 Democrat Cup (Senior League)
2014 Donegal Senior Gaeltacht
201 All-Ireland Gaeltacht
2015 Donegal U-21 Championship