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31st May 2023

How “hungry” teenager Johnny Sexton impressed GAA legend at their first meeting

Lee Costello

Johnny Sexton

“What’s the name of that young guy?”

GAA legend Enda McNulty first encountered Johnny Sexton when he was only a teenager, and it was clear from their first meeting that he was going to be special.

McNulty is an All-Ireland winner with Armagh, and has had an incredible career on the pitch, but of it, he is equally as successful, particularly in his field of sports psychology and performance.

The tenacious corner back would go on to work with the Leinster and Ireland rugby teams, where he of course would be in close quarters with Sexton, one of the country’s biggest stars.

Johnny Sexton

However, their first encounter took place when the Ireland hero was only 19 years old, and even then, he stood out.

“The initial introduction to him was at St Mary’s rugby club. I was still playing with Armagh, they were rocking at this stage, and somebody at St Mary’s club reached out to me, a guy called Stephen Hennessy, he was the coach,” McNulty told the GAA Hour podcast.

“He said ‘Enda we’re going to be relegated, is there any way you can come into the changing room and give us a bit of support in terms of mental toughness and confidence?’

Johnny Sexton

“The night I went in, I think it was a wet, cold, February night, and 90% of the room were sort of disinterested, 5% of the room I would say are half interested, but there was one person in the room who sat up really tall, almost catching every single word that I said.

“After that session, the boys would were out on the pitch and I could see that there was somebody incredibly focused, and incredibly diligent in everything that he was doing.

Johnny Sexton

“Of course I asked afterwards, what’s the name of that young guy that stood out in that session, and they said Johnny Sexton. So even before I got involved with Leinster I had met Johnny at St Mary’s.

“He was always curious, always humble, he was hungry to learn. Then obviously with Leinster, Ireland and the Lions, he became a world class superstar.”

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