Jake Mulraney explains how becoming a father affected his last Hearts performance
Jake Mulraney admits juggling the demands of being a professional footballer with the early weeks of fatherhood has proved difficult.
The Hearts winger welcomed his first child into the world when baby Ella was born just over two weeks ago, on the Wednesday prior to the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock. Mulraney played in that match against the Rugby Park side but was substituted in the second half after delivering a performance that fell short of his expectations. He admits his preparations in the days leading up to that match immediately prior to the international break were heavily disrupted amid the life-changing experience of becoming a dad, but he is endeavouring to find a routine that ensures his football is not impacted by the demands of parenthood going forward.
“People told me it’d be hard but I didn’t know it would be this hard,” he said, reflecting on his first two and a half weeks as a father. “Honestly, I love it so much - it’s a blessing. But I need to find that balance now. In the first few days, it was just like baby, baby, baby. I just need to find that balance now between baby, football, preparation and faith. It’s getting better now but at the start it was just baby, baby, baby.
“To be honest, it was my own fault, but I didn’t prepare right at all for the last game against Kilmarnock. I thought I could get away with it. I’ve never been in this situation before so I didn’t realise properly how much sleep I needed before games. I prepare Wednesday, Thursday, Friday for a game on a Saturday but the baby came on the Wednesday and I was up all night Wednesday and Thursday. I got a little bit more sleep on the Friday before the game but it wasn’t ideal in terms of my prep and I’ve learned from that because I felt the effects of it during the game. It was my own fault.
“Normally I prepare 100 per cent but because it was just baby, baby, baby, I was all over the shop. I didn’t have a great game that day, but I’m not putting that all down to the baby. It was myself as well. It might be a good thing because I now know I need to get my prep right. Recovery, eating and sleeping, just the basics really, are important for me before every game.”
Still only 23, Mulraney is one of the younger dads in the Hearts squad. He has been given plenty advice from his team-mates on how to balance the demands of home with being a professional athlete. “Sleeping in the car after training was suggested to me by Macca (Steven MacLean),” he laughs. “I’m picking up tips everywhere from the boys. One tip that was great was sleep when they sleep, I didn’t do that. I was up still half asleep myself but now when she sleeps I’ll get a nap in, so it’s all good.”
Mulraney, who had been used to getting nine hours’ sleep a night, will now sleep in the spare room on the nights prior to matches. “I’ll sleep in a different room, we’ve got a good structure now,” he explained. “She’s 16 days old so the first week was quite hard and now we’re starting to get into a routine so it’s a bit easier.
“My partner will do Monday and I’ll do Tuesday because we’re off on a Wednesday. She’ll do Thursday, Friday, and the night before the game and I’ll do the night after a game.”
Mulraney insists Hearts must start with a high tempo against Rangers at Tynecastle tomorrow in order to get the backing of their disillusioned supporters. “You can understand the fans' frustrations,” he said. “We’re expected to be a lot higher up the table, I understand it can be frustrating to watch, frustrating for the fans and everyone involved really. We know when we start right and start fast that the fans are right behind us and that’s what we need to do; get in people’s faces and do the things that get the crowd up for the game as that gives us a massive boost.”