Current Tyrone forwards would struggle to get into All-Ireland-winning teams say Owen Mulligan
OWEN Mulligan doesn’t think any of the current Tyrone forwards would make it onto the All-Ireland winning teams that he starred in.
The Red Hands legend also feels it’s time for Niall Morgan to concentrate solely on goalkeeping rather than continuing to take free-kicks and 45s, with Lee Brennan his preferred choice as Tyrone’s number one dead ball striker from all distances.
Bookmakers Paddy Power have revealed Tyrone football legend Mulligan former Kerry All-Star Bryan Sheehan and as their Paddy Power News GAA Ambassadors for 2018.
Throughout the duration of the 2018 All-Ireland Championships, the pair will feature as regular columnists for Paddy Power News (news.paddypower.com).
Although Tyrone’s forwards notched up big tallies in last year’s Ulster Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland quarter-final win over Armagh, a subsequent 12-point defeat by Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final should have forced a rethink, says Mulligan. He believes this year’s League campaign leaves a few question marks over Mickey Harte’s side heading into the summer.
“We racked up some big scores but I just don’t think there’s enough forwards up there,” he said.
“We had one last year (Mark Bradley). Now there’s two. I’d like to see four – Bradley, Brennan, (Peter) Harte and McAliskey.
“They all defend and track back and maybe it’s a lack of trust and the formation the manager wants them to play.”
Mulligan’s three-time All-Ireland winning team-mate Stephen O’Neill has been brought in to help coach the forwards this year but Mulligan says: “Stevie can’t coach a forward that’s being told to go back, because he is an out and out forward.
“We were out and out scorers, and I think that might be why Lee Brennan didn’t get on this last few years because he didn’t tackle back.
“Connor McAliskey isn’t an inside forward anymore. He drops back. Stevie is now coaching forwards how to be backs, so it’s hard for him. If you gave him three top forwards in Dublin he’d make them even better.”
Mulligan (inset) readily acknowledges the quality of forwards Tyrone possessed in winning Sam Maguire in 2003, 2005 and 2008 was a “freak” thing.
And he couldn’t see any of the current players displacing any of the former greats from those decorated teams.
“I don’t think they would have, but we had the best player in Ireland at one stage and we had the second best. Guys like Stevie and (Peter) Canavan and I fed off them. Enda McGinley. (Brian) McGuigan.
“You know it’s not the forwards’ fault at the minute because of the defensive way they are playing, the corner-forwards can’t express themselves.”
Mulligan is a huge admirer, however, of Lee Brennan who is a doubt for the Ulster SFC opener against Monaghan with a hamstring injury. He believes the Trillick forward should be given more responsibility with placed balls and instead allow Niall Morgan to develop his game in another direction.
“I said it last year too. They are missing too many free-kicks, crucial free-kicks, and 45s when Lee can put them over with his eyes closed. Why would you not carry him?
“He (Morgan) is putting added pressure on himself to take the free kicks and 45s. He missed one against Mayo in Croke Park two years ago to draw the game, I think it was two in a row he missed.
“When we are three, four, five points up he’ll step up and wing it over the bar, but when we’re under pressure, he doesn’t want to take it sometimes.
“Maybe he should concentrate on being a goalie. He has a good enough kick-out and is a good shot stopper.”
Injury concerns over Brennan and Colm Cavanagh have left Mulligan slightly anxious ahead of the first round game against Monaghan on May 20. But if they can get over it, he is confident they will go on and lift a third Ulster SFC title in-a-row.