Irish men’s coach Mark Tumilty is hoping for some of the stardust from the Dublin senior football camp to rub off on his fresh-faced side this summer with the appointment of Neil Irwin in a dual role as team manager and nutritionist.
Irwin has been involved as the Dubs' nutritionist since 2019 along with a role with Armagh senior ladies footballers.
He replaces Rob Kelly who has moved on to a new job and is among a number of changes to the setup.
Tumilty says it has a taken a while to take shape but, with Covid, feels he now has the right people in the right places.
“Neill has a great understanding of high performance and has been involved with a very successful and professional environment,” he told the Irish Examiner. “Manager is a key role and he has developed a good relationship with the players. Staffing-wise, it is good to get the team nailed down. It has taken a while but it is getting there.”
In addition, Eoin Cunniffe has been installed as the physical preparation lead while Tumilty has set up strong regional coaching groups.
There has been a particular focus on boosting the Munster section with Jonny Bruton joining fellow ex-international David Hobbs to develop local talent.
It is part of a more homegrown setup with Tumilty the first Irish-born coach since 2004 and he now has former internationals Joe Brennan, Ray Geddis and Erroll Lutton in the other regions.
And the head coach feels using more local coaches can raise the standard of coaching on the island far more than through the importation of assistants from the continent.
“I am pragmatic in the whole thing. I am keen to work with club coaches; they have access to the players more than me in a normal season.
“Covid has been different because we have had so much contact time [with no club action]. Whatever support we can give them, we will try.
“The knowledge the likes of Eoin and Neill can share; if we can help players and coaches in Ireland, as a whole, it will improve the standard of the league, that will in turn hopefully improve the standard of the national team.” The Irish men have not played since their ultimately unsuccessful Olympic qualifying campaign in October 2019 and they are very much in rebuilding mode.
Since then, Chris Cargo and Eugene Magee have retired while Stephen Cole, Jonny Bell and Stu Loughrey are taking a break this summer.
Tumilty says there will be plenty of new faces in the mix when Ireland compete the European B division in August in Poland and then subsequent World Cup qualifiers later in the year.
“It is definitely a rebuild job that we need to embrace. It is a very young group, an exciting group and one that has worked extremely hard [over the past year]. The B division is a good option for us and will be a good eye-opener for the players. I definitely see there being uncapped players in that squad. We need to be patient. There will be ups and downs and challenges but I definitely think there is talent there.