Padraig's Answer:

"It really has been, yes. I suppose we all have certain ideas and viewpoints surrounding how everything in life fits together. For us, sport, arguably more so than anything else, has helped to guide us through the business world, playing a very significant role in defining our attitudes towards it, and our behaviour and performance within it.

Indeed, kind of similar to the way a multi-linguist will think of second language words and their corresponding meaning in their native language, I often approach a work problem wearing the hat of an elite level sport’s participant! For example, I may ask myself how Alex Ferguson would go about strengthening organisational loyalty before researching how he would actually do such. Or how a Dr. Steve Peters or a Gilbert Enoka would create the platform for achieving peak performance, or how Aidan O’Brien achieves such efficiency at the Coolmore-Ballydoyle Stables down the road in Fethard, in South Tipp.

Perhaps that all sounds a little peculiar to some but I guess I ultimately share Mark Cuban’s viewpoint that “business is the ultimate sport”! Anyway, a day seldom goes by where I don’t spend at least an hour researching and analysing content upon the work of Sporting Thought Leaders, which I later adapt for use at Tailteann. A repository (@sixtwofourtwo) ran by my cousin, Brian McDonnell, who is the Sport’s Editor at The Tipperary Star, collates the kind of eclectic, insightful material I really love to use as a base here.

It’s just that based on my own experiences, no one pushes the boundaries of what is humanly possible quite like what top level sports people do. Their pursuit of perfection is 24/7 – even their sleep is tailored for success. With their infectious spirit, and their continuous defiance of ridiculously long odds, I just find them the most interesting of subjects to study and learn from.

"You cannot create experience - you must undergo it."

Albert Camus, Philosopher, Author, Goalkeeper.

Sport has been much more than just a theoretical help to us in business though; it has actually been a great teacher in a practical, direct sense too.

For example, transitioning from just a fan at Celtic FC to also a shareholder in the PLC helped me to view the running of the organisation in a less emotive, myopic manner, which ultimately assisted me to become a more rational, holistic decision-maker. Still doesn’t mean that I think the infamous “Biscuit Tin” couldn’t be dipped into with a touch more regularity though!

Being part of the consortium that bought Ebbsfleet United FC (who were managed by ex-Irish International, Liam Daish at the time) back in the mid noughties was a further exciting way that sport taught me about real-world business. From player recruitment to deciding what brand of pies the club-shop should sell on match-days, I was blessed to have a say in virtually every club-related matter, and learned so much from the whole experience.

Living in Limerick from the late nineties to the mid noughties, it was hard not to get caught up in the exciting, new European adventure that the Munster Rugby team were boldly embarking upon. I think that generation of players, which included Fergal’s ex-classmate, Trevor Hogan; a former Hurling opponent of mine in Donnacha Ryan; and a near neighbour in Ian Dowling; really struck a chord with people from non-rugby backgrounds like us. Perhaps it was because they had only recently departed from the amateur ranks but that group, led by Mick Galwey, espoused such admirable values, ones the majority of people from the region were able to pretty effortlessly relate to.

Anyway, we closely followed the journey of this pack of plucky underdogs as they wholeheartedly pursued their holy grail, and I was fortunate enough to be there in Cardiff with my red jersey on (incidentally, one of the crowns on the Munster crest represents the Butlers of Ormond, my maternal grandmother’s family!) when they captured European Rugby’s greatest club prize.

When we were to enter the Sports Science domain shortly afterwards, the Club were of untold assistance to us, as good a partner as you could ever wish to have. Seeing from the inside how they operated was such a brilliant learning experience. During that period, our team witnessed the true power of purpose-driven, values-based organisations - everyone in that dressing-room lived the Province’s stated principles (see above), and reaped the rewards of doing so. Perhaps the greatest single lesson learned of all was something Paul O’Connell said in relation to the redevelopment of Thomond Park, which was taking place around that time: “Here in Munster, we do things on time and on budget”. That really resonated with me, and has been a guiding principle of ours at Tailteann ever since.

"Hurling definitely steeled me. When I come back to Tipp in the summer, I train with my local team (Gortnahoe-Glengoole) to feed the craze. I love the sport."

Shane Long, Irish Soccer International

Considering that our father and mother played for Tipp in All-Ireland Hurling and Camogie finals respectively, and that the Association itself was founded just half an hour down the road in Thurles, it probably comes as no great surprise to hear that the GAA shaped the world-view of both Fergal and I like no other sporting organisation.

Playing the games of Hurling and Gaelic Football over the course of a 25 year period taught us an incalculable number of things, such as the importance of adopting a "growth mindset", that the only competition is ever really with yourself, and the fact that risk and reward walk the same path. Above all, these sports taught us of the need to constantly innovate in order to aggregate marginal gains. For example, in my final season playing Hurling a couple of years back, I (positioned at centre back) experimented with a pine-tar covered, big-básed goalie hurley in a bid to maximise my first touch. That same season, Fergal, who was operating at centre forward, started to maintain an “inner scorecard”, using a host of self-devised KPIs to judge his own in-game performance.

We’ve just so much to be thankful to the GAA for, which at grassroots level is Ireland at its very best, in my humble opinion. The Association even sparked my interest in organisational culture – the first ever Mission, Vision and Values Statement I ever read being theirs. What Paudie Butler, the former National Director of Hurling, and a first cousin of my mother’s, said during his Keynote Speech at this year's GAA Games Development Conference actually sums it up so well for me – “nothing prepares you for Irish life quite like our national games.

"Take care of your body - it's the only place you have to live."

Jim Rohn, Entrepreneur

And maybe the most important thing of all that sport taught us were the benefits of staying fit, of eating well, of sleeping well. Because after all, there isn’t really a career (Sumo Wrestling asides perhaps!) that you can achieve peak performance in whilst maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle.

While Fergal and I have too big a workload to still play competitive sport, we both make time to fit in a weekly game of floodlit astroturf soccer with friends. Even though it’s primarily just a fun, sociable night out, I think it nonetheless offers an opportunity to learn a little more about yourself, and others. I also find the game helps to sharpen pattern recognition and probability evaluation skills, which I guess is particularly useful in our line of work.

Fergal remains a very dedicated gym-goer too; he often tells me how an early morning session boosts his productivity, alertness and energy for the working day that lies ahead. Being a night owl, I refuse to believe a word he says though! Considering that he hasn’t missed a day of work since Tailteann was founded however, maybe I should! High Intensity Interval Training, whether it be running or calisthenics, is my current flavour of the month. On time invested, I find it delivers not only a really good physical but mental return – my least ridiculous ideas seem to arrive in the aftermath of such sessions anyway!

As is typically the case when I start talking about sport, I've blabbered on way too much here, so will just wrap it up by reiterating that we have indeed found the area to be very influential, just in case that mightn't have been wholly obvious from the above!!"