“You go into the boys at 9am on a Monday or Tuesday, and it’s craic, it’s banter; it’s not like ‘real work’, in a way. Like I keep telling my wife it’s work, that I’m going to work in the mornings. She thinks it’s a hobby I get paid for.”
To be fair, if goalkeeping’s a hobby McNulty appears to be fine-tuning it with age.
At 37 years young, Mark McNulty is loving his football more than ever, even if a new arrival on Leeside caused him some alarm bells.
City boss John Caulfield signed Peter Cherrie in the close season after the Scottish netminder left Bray Wanderers. With bags of experience — Cherrie having won a league and cup double with Dundalk in 2014 — it represented a new challenge.
“When Peter first came at the start of season, I was kind of going ‘woah, what’s going on here?’” admits McNulty. “But I’m glad he’s here, he’s a top, top bloke.
“The two of us are pushing each other all the time. If my standard drops in training and I see Peter making two or three great saves, I snap out of it and I’m at it again, which is a good thing. Maybe over the years when young lads were there, maybe I wasn’t.
“It’s best for me, it’s best for Peter, best for everyone, and best for Cork City.”
McNulty was named the goalkeeper of the year in the past two seasons, and has been impressive this season also — although a mistake against Dundalk proved costly in March, as the Lilywhites claimed a 1-0 win at Oriel Park. The Ballincollig man reacted impressively to the error, and has conceded just one goal at Turner’s Cross this season, in the 2-1 win over Limerick a fortnight ago.
“I think I’ve done alright obviously, bar the mistake up in Dundalk, I’ve been consistent,” says McNulty. “There’s been a lot of games I haven’t had much to do but as a keeper you have to keep on your toes. As (goalkeeping coach) Phil Harrington says sometimes it’s not about making the flashy saves, it’s about reading the game and making those easy catches.”
In an intriguing title race, Cork, Dundalk, and Waterford have traded blows at the top, with all three beating each other at home. With home form so important, Cork boss John Caulfield describes tonight’s Turner’s Cross clash with Martin Russell’s Bray as “huge”, and believes the Seagulls are a different proposition since the appointment of the former Limerick manager last month.
“We know it’s a huge game. Martin Russell has done a great job at Bray since he came in. People were saying Bray were adrift seven weeks ago, and they turned around and beat Shamrock Rovers and Derry and got a draw with Waterford.
“They are very organised, super on the counter-attack and have a lot of pace. It’s still the first half of the season. Both at the top and bottom there’ll be a right run-in.”
City have no new injury concerns and Gearoid Morrissey comes back into contention tonight.