23 Apr 14
With just days to go to Munster's Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon in Marseilles, the Munster squad continued their preparations with a full squad session in Musgrave Park yesterday.
There is a lot involved, there's a huge management team there, there's a huge playing team there so with all that there's probably 80 bodies that need my attention, more often than I thought they would need my attention but it's getting there and I'm getting used to it so it's good.
I work very close with Rob, the two of us need to be in sync saying the same thing, otherwise things could break down and players would be able to see through that as well. It's important to have a close contact with him because that's what it's all about, us helping the players achieve goals.
This is why we are here, making sure the players have the right training facilities, to getting up in the morning and wanting to come to work, so we have to create that environment for them.
The game is about players and as a management role it is about helping getting the best out of players and working with them for any game or weekend. When I was coaching I never felt that players worked for me, I worked with them and made their life as easy as possible so they could do what they had to at the weekend."
Plenty has changed since Niall's early coaching days, "My first year with Munster Rugby (97/98) I was put in with John Bevan, he was assigned the Head Coach and I was put in as assistant. The game was relatively new to the professional era, and realistically at the time we had the Interpro series (3 games) and what was known as the European Cup, and that was it for the season.
John pulled out after four or five weeks and just to get through that season Declan (Kidney) came in. He worked with the backs and I worked with the forwards, and we fulfilled that season and all the fixtures. Then Declan went in as Head Coach the following year and I was his assistant.
So at the very start you had Declan, myself, Jerry Holland as Manager and Colm Tucker was there for a season as well, and these guys were there on a part-time basis. We had David Mahedy as our fitness advisor and that was basically our management team.
It evolved from there to where there were 4 or 5 management to close on 30 now. The same player wise, you had very few contracted guys on a fulltime basis in the late 90s, and you're talking about 40 or 50 guys on a constant basis now so it's certainly a big company.
And that's only our side of things. Then you go into one of the offices in Cork or Limerick and you see the amount of work being done in the background just to make sure everything else clicks into place, the whole organisation from Garrett down is a huge organisation and a well-oiled one; it works well together."
As Team Manager it is for Niall to make the call on the more difficult decisions when it comes to squad needs and demands. "Look I can be the bad guy but in fairness to the lads once something is explained to them and they understand the financial side of things, that it is not a bottomless pit, then things are accepted.
I've probably come in at a more difficult time, I'm like the 'Minister of Doom and Gloom' at times but the players are aware themselves, and as I said it isn't a bottomless pit.
Things are a bit tighter now and everybody is feeling the pinch, for everybody who has to come to a match it's up to the players to make sure that they want to come back on a regular basis and the guys have to perform.
My job itself I believe changes from hour to hour. It's a kind of a job that there is no real switch off from it. The weekends are the busiest time, well from a player point of view with matches on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Then while the players are in down-time we're still doing things, if you talk to any of the management guys, the physios, the S&C guys, you're at the end of a phone 24 hours a day. At any stage of the day, at 6am you may get a call from a player who is ill and won't be able to make it to training and I need that information for the coaching staff because they're putting a schedule together for the day and they need to know who's going to be there or not. The reality is you're on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Basically for most things team related, people come through me on it, whether it is press, kit, sponsors and things like that, I'm the go-to person. There are a lot of meetings. Everybody is willing to fill in your day for you but it is all part in parcel.
I must say I really enjoyed last week with no game at the weekend but we were already talking about pre-season, and all of these things need to be planned long in advance. There are a lot of small bits and pieces which don't really effect this week or next week but need to be done in the background so we've spent a lot of time looking at them in the past week."
Niall and the team return to match action this Saturday in Musgrave Park when they take on Edinburgh in round 14 of the RaboDirect PRO12, ko 7.45pm.