Diarmuid Mullins: It’s all about planning for the future

The minor grade has changed a fair bit — and for the better — since a young Diarmuid Mullins won back-to-back All-Ireland football medals with Laois in the mid-90s.

Diarmuid Mullins: It’s all about planning for the future

The minor grade has changed a fair bit — and for the better — since a young Diarmuid Mullins won back-to-back All-Ireland football medals with Laois in the mid-90s. Having since swapped codes and counties, the Limerick minor hurling manager is hoping his charges can play their part in a potential Munster double for the Treaty County at the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow afternoon.

That said, the changing attitudes towards development squads and what role they serve means silverware is no longer the chief focus of a county minor manager. Mullins was part of the Laois minor football panel which tasted All-Ireland glory in 1996 and 1997, lining out at half-back for the second of those wins, and while they enjoyed two memorable campaigns, he knows full well they would have benefited far more from the round-robin system currently in place.

Even if Limerick fall to Clare in tomorrow’s curtain-raiser, they are still guaranteed two All-Ireland quarter-final round-robin games, bringing the total number of championship games they’ll have played this summer to seven. The room that provides for improvement and growth is more valuable to a player’s long-term development than any minor medal.

“When I was minor, it was knockout. You’d only one chance. There was more of an emphasis on trying to win the minor championship the couple of years I was involved. Nowadays, while of course you want to win Munster and the All-Ireland, it is about developing players, developing certain skillsets, and making sure there is a proper culture in place so lads can progress to play U20 and senior for their county.

“There is way more time and effort being put into that side of it to make sure there is a pathway to bring players through and enable them to progress up through the ranks,” explains Mullins.

I want these Limerick minors to do really well, but if, in three or four years time, five or six of the current team have moved on to be successful senior players, that’ll be a better outcome than anything else that happens that year.

"Part of our remit is to bring through good quality players and to ensure they develop an understanding of what is going to be necessary to take the next step in their careers.”

Having studied at Mary Immaculate College, Mullins, a native of Portlaoise, returned to Limerick when taking up a teaching post at Crescent College Comprehensive in 2002. Seventeen years later, he’s still based at the Dooradoyle school, although now wearing the title of deputy principal.

“It was his old Mary I Sigerson manager Diarmuid O’Driscoll who roped him into training the Mungret intermediate footballers back in 2004, a campaign which ended in county glory. From there, he was part of Tony Considine’s Kilmallock backroom team which masterminded two Limerick SHC wins, before returning to Mungret to oversee their run to county intermediate hurling glory in 2016.

This is his first year as Limerick minor boss, steering the county to a sixth Munster MHC final in seven years. Central to this consistency has been the county’s underage academy established at the beginning of this decade.

“When I first came to Limerick, if you were a talented player, you might have veered towards rugby or some other code. If you’re a talented player now, the choice you are likely to make is to go through the academy system because it is very well set-up. There has been a consistency which has led to an expectation that Limerick are going to be competitive at minor level.”

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