LEGENDARY Boston Celtics Head Coach Red Aurebach is a man credited with reshaping and redefining the NBA.
With the Celtics in the 1950s and 60s, Aurebach won nine NBA championships.
It was a team defined by a defensive approach, hitting teams with fast, deadly breaks.
The Celtics had a ‘dynasty’ with Aurebach at the controls and with defence as their cornerstone.
“There will be nights when your shots won’t fall, but you can play good defence every night,” Aurebach once explained.
It’s a philosophy with which Damien McNulty would agree.
When McNulty put pen to paper in Ballybofey almost three years ago now – in January 2013 to be precise – the first question on many lips was: ‘Who?’
McNulty had spells with Limavady United and Colerain in the Irish League, but he was unheard of in these parts.
Now nearing his third season, McNulty is known now alright.
His no-nonsense and edgy displays have become a real feature of Harps’ play since his signing.
His capture was one of the better pieces of business that Peter Hutton signed off on during his stint as the Harps manager and it was no surprise that the off-season Chinese whispers linked him with a move to Brandywell Stadium last winter.
McNulty stayed loyal to Harps and had clearly been energised and enriched by last season’s run to the semi-finals of the FAI Senior Cup – a journey that gave McNulty and his ilk a glimpse of the giant that sleeps down Navenny Street.
McNulty have won just twice this season on the eight occasions on which McNulty has been absent: the 1-0 win at Wexford in Wexford in April and the recent 3-0 triumph over UCD at Finn Park.
McNulty wasn’t in the team the night John McKeown netted a 95th minutes equaliser for Cabinteely in May, while the back-to-back League losses against Athlone and Wexford were suffered without the Derry man.
The ultimate accolade for a footballer is recognition by peers.
This week, McNulty, comfortable at right-back or centre-back, was voted into the PFAI First Division Team of the Year by his fellow players.
McNulty rolled the dice when Harps came calling – but it has proved a superb move for player and for club.
“I didn’t know much about Harps before I came up,” he said.
“I knew Blaine Curtis who was at the club at the time. I knew the club had history and I obviously knew who ‘Pizza’ (Hutton) was from playing for Derry.
“I was enjoying it at Coleraine, but I broke a bone in my foot and was out for a few games. When I came back I got another injury and was just getting frustrated with things.
“I knew that the First Division would be a tough League. I spoke to a few people who played in it and they all said about how tough, how physical it was.”
McNulty isn’t renowned for his goalscoring, but he has netted twice this season and five overall in almost 70 appearances for the club.
Last month, he was denied what could have been a precious goal against Waterford United on a night that saw Harps held to a scoreless draw.
McNulty emphatically planted a header from Tony McNamee’s excellently-delivered free-kick past a helpless Robert Birdsall in the Waterford goal and Finn Park erupted.
Then the realisation dawned. The linesman was stood with flag aloft and silence engulfed the old ground.
Michael Grant was upstairs in the television gantry filming for Harps and captured the incident perfectly. As he replayed the footage, it was quite clear that the official had erred, but McNulty and Harps were quick to put the incident to bed.
A few weeks ago, there were real fears that Damien McNulty’s season was over when he fell awkwardly at training last month and popped a shoulder out of place.
As he left the training ground at Sessiaghoneill, it appeared as if 2015 had become a write-off.
But the versatile defender is cut from tough cloth and he played the final 23 minutes as a substitute on Friday night after coming on for Kieran McDaid. In the trenches of the play-offs, McNulty’s presence will serve as a huge asset.
He’s aware of his own duties: “As a defender, first and foremost you want to keep a clean sheet.”
The hard-working philosophy that Horgan brings to the table sits well with McNulty.
Another quote from Aurebach’s era at the Celtics springs to mind: ‘An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise.’