Carlow eying Croker success thanks to Tom Mullally’s Midas touch

Carlow manager Tom Mullally. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Tom Mullally has already gone where only a select crew have gone before in terms of managerial achievements and he is bidding to add another significant string to his bow when his Carlow side tackle Offaly in Saturday’s Joe McDonagh Cup final.

Mullally remarkably achieved county title success on the double a decade ago with Clara – with whom he was a coach – landing the 2013 Kilkenny SHC title while Mount Leinster Rangers also scooped the Carlow SHC title that year. The Kilkenny native then proceeded to manage the Carlow men to a famous Leinster club SHC title before making it all the way to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, where they fell to the mighty Portumna at the final hurdle.

One thing is nearly always certain with Mullally, success will follow no matter where he goes and he pulled off another sensational double act as recently as last year – this time on the same day.

​He masterminded a famous Leinster intermediate club success for the Naas senior hurlers – who beat his native Glenmore in the provincial semi-final – last January before his Carlow side defeated Kildare in the Kehoe Cup final later that afternoon.

After dashing the 40 minutes from Newbridge to Dr Cullen Park, it ended up being “a bit of a dream day” as more silverware was collected but that has been a common theme and he has amassed a stellar CV as bainisteoir.

Much like many leaders in their specified field, you won’t hear Mullally crowing about his greatness as he just goes about his business quietly and effectively and collects trophies along the way.

He regularly juggles two jobs (club and county) and while it can be hectic, “it shortens the winter anyway and we don’t get too much time to sit in by the fire watching television anyway.”

Interestingly, the same can be said of Offaly counterpart Johnny Kelly with both displaying the Midas touch when it comes to instilling winning habits into the various set-ups which they have been involved in over the years.

Christy Kealy has been Mullally’s right-hand man throughout his managerial career and the pair will be hoping to lead the Barrowsiders back to the promised land after a few years in the wilderness.

Carlow won the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup in 2018 before giving as good as they got in the Leinster SHC, despite being relegated without a win from their four games but they have faded away somewhat since then.

Colm Bonnar departed at the end of 2020 and surprisingly they have been unable to get back to the McDonagh final in their three campaigns up until now.

Mullally, brother of former Kilkenny stars Richie and Paddy, has negotiated that hurdle with skipper Paul Doyle hailing his ability to “drive standards” in a “player-led” environment.

“He’s brilliant,” Doyle said. “He’s a great motivator and he always has a different angle on each game and he’s very good to do his research on different teams and try to figure out strengths and weaknesses.

“But the overall thing with him is that he drives standards, that would be the big thing for him. What he tries to do would be that he would give the team a bit of control on the whole thing too.

“He’d come back to us and say ‘What do ye think about the whole thing?’ and it would be player-led rather than dictating from the top.”

St Mullins’ defender Doyle has even forgiven Mullally for inflicting pain on him at club level.

“He would have (broke my heart), he would have. My first county final in 2013, it wasn’t a great day out and my first county final but since he’s after taking us over we’ve gotten over that!” Doyle chuckled.

All will definitely be forgiven if Mullally can add a notable inter-county success to his resume against the Faithful in Croke Park.

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