Exiles product and Connacht full-back Oran McNulty will have every reason to feel right at home when the Ireland U20s get their Six Nations underway in Cork next Friday as he visits his father’s hometown for the opener with Scotland.
Raised in England’s south-west with an English mother and father from Cork, it was Dermot McNulty’s birthplace that had the strongest pull for Oran and he was always a natural fit for the Irish Exiles when IQ Rugby Talent ID Coach Wayne Mitchell came calling after an U18s game for hometown club Bath.
“I was playing against Gloucester for Bath U18s,” McNulty recalled. “I got picked up by Wayne Mitchell and I followed through the Exiles programme until U18s where I got into the schools and club sides to play England at Ashbourne. I have continually gone back throughout school to the Exiles and played a few games with them. Then we did a tour of Ireland in my second last year of school and we were undefeated in that. I got picked up by Connacht after playing against them in the Sportsground.”
McNulty, who turned 20 last week, has not looked back since his move to Galway and there are no regrets about his decision to go with Ireland rather England. He spent time with the IRFU Sevens programme before switching to the 15-a-side format and is in his second year at the Connacht academy.
“When I left school Connacht gave me the offer and I was absolutely willing to take that. It’s very different from back home, but other than the weather it’s brilliant, the people are lovely and I have really settled in well. Leaving the family and everything was tough in the first few weeks. But I settled in nicely and made a lot of friends.”
The second-youngest of five children, his younger brother Finn is in school and working his way through the Bath academy system and it was Connacht’s emphasis on strong family ties that made the western province a perfect fit.
“It is a very family-orientated club. They are aware of where people have come from. They put the family before anything else which is a great ethos in the club. That is why I enjoy being there a lot.” McNulty, a multi-talented athlete who competed at national level in swimming and hockey, was in Cork this week for a four-day training camp at the Fota Island Resort, part of Noel McNamara’s squad which will go into the 2020 Six Nations as champions following last year’s Grand Slam. It was a golden opportunity for the full-back to stake a claim to a place in the matchday 23 for the Musgrave Park opener on January 31 and McNulty was determined to put his best foot forward.
“For the final matchday squad I still have to push on and earn my spot. So hopefully I will be involved now. I am really looking forward to putting on the green jersey.”