The S Athletes

The S Word will be bringing you The S Athletes. A series of interviews, podcasts and articles from professional sportsmen and women. Within these, we will discover what it really takes to make it in their chosen sport, what they have sacrificed along the way and also the life that they live away from the sport itself.

Q1. How did you get started in your rugby career? Can you talk us through the process you went through?

I started my Rugby at the age of 4, on Sundays at 10am at my local rugby club, Bradford On Avon with my sister as a teammate. I also had a good few school mates that joined at the same time and I played all the way up with them until I left Monkton Combe in year 3 (8 years old). 

For year 4, I moved to Millfield Prep where I picked up a lot of sports such as hockey, swimming, football and cricket. I played these at a high level, and I was enjoying each of them, but my heart always belonged to the upcoming rugby season. When I moved to Millfield Senior School, I had to make a decision on which sport I wanted to keep playing as there was a stage, I was doing too much. It ended up being nearly every day of the week whilst still playing for my club on Sunday’s after a match on Saturday. 

After talking to my parents, and my coaches, John Mallett and John Brimacombe, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue rugby, and Millfield was the best place to do that. At the time, I was also working with Joe Goodman and Mike Baxter. They were helping me improve the fundamentals of the game. My first involvement with the Irish set-up was just after a game for Bath against Gloucester u18 in which I was 17. An exiles coach was watching, Wayne Mitchell. He spoke to me at the end of the match, and before I knew it, I was on the way to Ireland to play against England for Ireland u18s clubs and schools. Moving to my last year at school, I had to make some tough decisions. It was either staying in England having the opportunity to stay at Bath or move to Ireland to Connacht where I could be a step closer to representing Ireland. I’m glad I chose the route I did, as being able to represent Connacht Eagles, Ireland u19 and u20 whilst winning 3 from 3 games in the 6 nations as 3 were unfortunately lost due to Covid-19 is an incredible dream come true for me.

Q2. What training schedule is like?

Sunday: The training schedule gets sent out the day after the game which is normally a Sunday but can be on Saturdays if we play Friday night.

Monday: Physically this is very much a rehab/movement day just to get the body moving. We also have an analysis session which is the main focus of the day on the previous performance and touch base with the coming game and the opposition.

Tuesday: It gets ramped up another few levels. This would be our toughest day on and off feet (a lot of lower limb lifting), usually full whack in the pissing rain out in the west of Ireland.

Wednesday: We have this day off but usually there’s a recovery focus on either getting in the sea or on the facilities we have at the sports ground. 

Thursday: The schedule is slightly relaxed with uppers in the gym and a units split session. This leads to the team run through with high tempo block of scenarios at the end. 

Friday: Either we travel and have a captain run at the ground or have a captain run at home gym which is optional for players. Personally, I take them up.  

Q3. How competitive it is to get onto the team sheet between friends.

Yeah, obviously it’s very competitive with your mates in the same position fighting for that 15 jersey, it can be tough at times. You may not of had a good week or a game and you have to dig deep and find ways to get better and not give the coaches a reason not to select you for the next game. 

Q4. Any special diets?

For me it’s very much a high Cal diet for gaining weight having a fast recovery straight off the pitch or gym. This is just to help my performance and physical development. 

Q5. Do you have any downtime? And what do you do in it?

You can only do so much on your feet in the day so there is a good amount of downtime. At the moment I’m taking a course on sport science in Ireland, so I have to keep tipping away at that. But I do enjoy going for a coffee with the lads or play a round of golf here and there. I’m a big fan of the cinema so very much a frequent visitor. 

Q6. What is your future plan?

Well it was to be involved in the Junior World Cup in Italy this summer, but due to the outbreak of Covid – 19 it has been cancelled which has thrown a spanner in the works. So, my focus now is reviewing the 6 nations on areas I can improve for preseason. 

Q7. Do you get paid? Sponsorships?

At the moment I’m on my second year of an academy contract from the IRFU. 

Q8. Best and worst moment being a professional

– Best moments after a win in the changing rooms, nothing better. 

– Worst moments wound definitely be not performing well that really stuff really gets to you.

Comments to: The S Athletes #1: Oran McNulty – IRFU – Full Back U20

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