Members Q and A – Marcus O Buachalla, Leinster Rugby

Sport for Business is all about the people within our community. The people that compete, the people that support, the people that make commercial partnerships work and the people that keep the whole sporting circus on the road.

We want to introduce you to those people, to get to know them and where they come from, what gets them excited and what they enjoy about working in our sector.

Today we meet up with Marcus O Buacahalla, Senior Communications Manager at Leinster Rugby and a man who has reinvented himself from qualified solicitor to occasional GAA commentator

Tell us who you are and what you do in the business of sport?

My name is Marcus Ó Buachalla and I am the Senior Communications & Media Manager with Leinster Rugby.

In simple terms, I manage the communications for Leinster Rugby but I am also part of the wider commercial and marketing team within Leinster.

Give us some of the things you have done in getting to where you are in 2020 that you feel were of importance?

I qualified as a solicitor way back in 2006 and while my role now is very different to what I trained for and worked in, I am very proud of my professional qualification. The grounding it gave me and the experience of working in a demanding professional services industry gave me an excellent appreciation for the client, servicing his/her needs to a high standard and finally the importance of the spoken and the written word.

I am proud of the way I re-invented myself when the economy collapsed. It wasn’t easy and I am very grateful to my wife Laura and my family for their support during a very challenging 12-18 months in my working life but I think I applied myself well to new opportunities and that ultimately opened up a door into communications and the business of sport with Pembroke Communications (now Teneo) and here I am over ten years later.

Finally, I am proud of the growth in the communications team in Leinster Rugby during my time because I can’t do what I do without the team that I have around me. And I feel very fortunate for colleagues like Conor, Ryan, Lisa, Ramsey and Gavin.

What excites you about working in the business of sport?

That’s a great question.

If you were to ask me what excites me about working in business or what I qualified in, about working in the law…there would, of course, be elements that I enjoy and elements that gave me huge satisfaction, but excitement?

Working in sport delivers excitement in spades. You have to put it to one side a lot of the time to focus on the job in hand but it is very hard to describe the madness of matchday and then you amplify that tenfold for big games or knock-out rugby and then add in the fact that you are invested in the 23 players and coaches on match day.

I can’t influence the 80 minutes obviously but you know the players, their stories, their families, their road to that point. Leave aside winning, it’s hugely rewarding to see a young player get a debut or score a first try or come back from injury or just to be there when Player X scores THAT try.

We are lucky in Leinster to have had some good days but it can never be about winning because I have no control over that but thankfully there are plenty of other moments that can really inspire you and lift you.

So like every job there are ups and downs and good days and bad, but there is unpredictability, magic and yes an excitement to sport that is difficult to replicate.

And what would you find to be an occasional (or regular) frustration?

The perception of media managers versus what I actually do.

To be honest Rob, I’m just focused on the next thing, on controlling my controllables, and taking my learnings from one challenge into the next.

What are some of the things you have on your work agenda for the next twelve months?

I think for everyone working in the business of sport, Covid-19 and the recovery from its impact is the number one priority.

I would nearly go so far as to say that all else is redundant because without a road out of the madness Covid-19 has created there are no ‘three things’.

And I mention a recovery but the reality is of course that we are still some way short of that. You hear of numbers on the rise and spikes in certain age groups and the big fear is that we are hit with a second wave.

It doesn’t bear thinking about. We haven’t had match day revenue in Leinster Rugby since February and our finance model is hugely reliant on those match days going ahead.

So, yes there are a number of projects that myself and the rest of the commercial and marketing team in Leinster are working on but all our efforts are currently around getting back up and running.

Getting Summer Camps back open, getting our clubs open and the ‘Return to Rugby’ roadmap completed, getting the 2019/20 season finished and starting the 2020/21 season.

And then how to get supporters back in a safe manner to the RDS.

That’s enough for any agenda!

And give us one thing that you would like to achieve in a personal capacity?

I’ve been studying at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School over the last year doing a Diploma in Advanced Management Performance and I’ve really enjoyed that.

There is one module still to finish and it looks like that will be finished online in September so I’d be hopeful of completing that and then seeing where I’m at and whether or not to kick on further.

Outside of your own sport give us one event in an Irish and one in an international context that you would like to experience?

In an international context, I’d love to experience the Super Bowl. A friend of mine, Neil Brittain, who used to work in Ulster Rugby actually managed to experience the build-up a few years ago.

He was shadowing the media team in the build-up to it and over the course of the few days and it looked brilliant. A pity he had to travel halfway around the world to experience it but he got over that fairly lively he said.

The American sports media model is so different from what we have here and there are pros and cons to both undoubtedly. But I’d love to see it up close.

In an Irish context maybe the Irish Open. Again, just to see how another organisation manages its flagship event that welcomes athletes and media attention from around the world because you would always pick up bits and pieces or ways of doing things differently.

While I am hopeless at golf, I enjoy playing and I spent my J1 Summer caddying in the States, in Whistling Straits, where the Ryder Cup will be played.

And I think the excitement that the final 18 on a Sunday brings when there are two players going at it is hard to beat! I was there when Darren Clarke sank that putt in the Ryder Cup and walking a course and the spectator experience at a golf event when there is something on the line, is brilliant.

Give us one sporting partnership over recent years that you admire?

I have really admired the 20×20 campaign and indeed the numerous partnerships that have supported the initiative so I won’t focus on any one partner as they have all brought something to the table in how they have activated.

I’ve been working in the business of sport for some time now but then you have a daughter, then a son and then a second daughter and you’d like to think that life, not just sport, would be a level playing field for all three of them.

But it’s not.

And it’s not on any one person or any one segment of society to change that. We can all do better. I’d like to think that we have made strides but there is room for us all to grow and to play our part in that.

And that’s the beauty of the 20×20 campaign and the partnerships that support it. It’s a very simple idea. Us all doing something. Anything. Our own little pledge to get out there or to write more or to feature more women’s sport.

I have seen it myself. Laoise can list a Sene or a Larissa or a Juliet the same way she can a Johnny or a Jordan or a Garry. But I like the way that Conor can too. And he knows Lauren Magee or an Éabha Rutledge as well as a Cian O’Sullivan or a Paul Mannion. And why wouldn’t he?

Ella at three isn’t quite there yet! But she knows ‘Up The Dubs’ is the only acceptable answer and that ‘Up Ciarraí’ should be left at the door. Priorities in place good and early!

And an individual that you really respect?

Colm Cronin and Mick O’Keeffe. They took a punt on me many moons ago when I interviewed for a gig in Pembroke Communications and since Colm stepped away, Mick has now gone on to build Pembroke first into PSG and then into Teneo. No mean feat and hard not to have the height of respect for the man.

Hopefully, you’ll allow me a second. Away from my own work I have always been fascinated by Billy Walsh. I’ve heard him present over the years and there is a simplicity to a lot of what he says that really hits home.

And again, what a journey. To the Olympic medals and an elite boxing set up from where it all was and now over in the States. It wasn’t easy but he persevered and got there.

Tell us something about you that people might not know?

I commentate for TG4 on Gaelic games when the Leinster Rugby and family schedule allows.

It’s something I’ve been doing since college when I started with Setanta Sports, then TV3 and then I started doing them ‘as Gaeilge’ with TG4.

Looking forward to hopefully getting back out there in the weeks ahead.

What is the thing about being a member of Sport for Business that you get the most from?

The daily digest would be my normal answer I’d say and the quick check-in that it gives you of what’s what and who is doing what but I’ve liked the way that COVID has maybe forced Sport for Business’ hand in some ways to branch out and as a result membership has provided an excellent platform to get a sense of what’s going on in the industry at a time of crisis.

The Members Research Project is a good example and the snapshot it gave of where the sports business landscape in Ireland is currently and where we see it going…or even the quizzes have been great! Very brave men and women out there putting themselves in front of a tricky quiz master…

And our Quickfire round to finish off…

Hurling/Camogie or Football?

Football

Football or Rugby World Cup

Rugby

Twitter or Instagram?

Twitter professionally and Instagram personally, and only the good bits get posted obviously.

Night in or a night out?

Night out

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl

Favourite Movie in the past twelve months?

Mrs Doubtfire. The kids saw it for the first time recently and you’d forget just how brilliant Robin Williams was.

Favourite Song on your playlist?

The Weekend, Blinding Lights…more so when the kids are around as when it comes on, regardless of where we are, it’s an open invitation to recreate the TikTok dance thing. Great craic and we have yet to master it!

Favourite Book you’ve read in the past year?

I used to be an avid reader but unless I’m on holiday or reading a book as part of the day job (which isn’t quite the same) I just don’t get the time. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was the last holiday book I read and I bought the sequel ready for Summer holidays 2020 in Italy…the book might be staying on the shelf a while longer.

 

If you are a member of Sport for Business and would like to take part in our Sport for Business Chats, email us today and we will be in touch.

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