GAA Football

London boss Ciaran Deely leaves door open for Owen Mulligan to make Championship return with London

Owen Mulligan last featured for Tyrone in the Red Hands' 2012 Qualifier defeat to Kerry
Neil Loughran

LONDON boss Ciaran Deely has left the door open for Owen Mulligan to make a surprise return to the Championship stage – almost five years after his last appearance for Tyrone.

The 35-year-old last donned the Red Hand jersey in Tyrone’s Qualifier defeat to Kerry in July 2012, but could find himself back on the inter-county scene after becoming eligible to turn out for London in the Connacht Championship.

Following his move to the English capital earlier this year, Mulligan joined Fulham Irish, whose footballers are managed by former Down star Gregory McCartan.

‘Mugsy’ came on as a late substitute for the club’s hurling side in the London intermediate championship a fortnight ago, prompting McCartan to tweet a picture of Mulligan, hurl in hand, with the accompanying request: “Looking for a helmet with a top knot hole in it!”

Yet while his career in the small ball game may be short-lived, an unexpected county swansong with the London footballers could be on the cards.

Following a meeting with Deely, Mulligan has attended training during recent weeks and the Exiles boss hasn’t ruled out the possibility that the three-time All-Ireland winner could feature when Leitrim travel to Ruislip on May 28.

“I’ve spoken to him a good bit and I’m delighted to have him involved. You can see he’s in very good shape himself,” said Wexford native Deely.

“I don’t know at this stage [if he’ll play]… he’s only after coming in a few weeks ago and, as he’d probably say himself, it would probably take him a while to get up to the speed of the inter-county game because he’s only played a little bit with Fulham Irish. There’s not many games in London at this time of year and we haven’t had any friendly games either.

“I’d say it’s going to be very difficult for him, but if he could feature at any stage it would be a bonus for us. Even just his experience… he’s been there, done that, he’d bring a lot of know-how to the game and help our lads that way.

“He’s been away from the Tyrone panel for a good few years and every top player still likes to get out on the pitch for a big day.”

Even if he only fulfils the role of impact sub, Deely insists the mere presence of the Cookstown man around the panel has given London a huge lift as they count down to their Championship opener.

He continued: “He’s got a fantastic attitude, he’s there every night and he’s helping out some of the younger lads because we’ve a number of forwards who are early 20s.

“We’re delighted to have him around and involved with the set-up because a fella with his experience and knowledge of the game is invaluable.

“We’ve a lot of English-born lads, a lot of lads who haven’t played inter-county before, so they’re coming in without that experience of how to win inter-county games. He helps a lot with that.

“Owen’s a great character, a good fella, and the players have really taken to him. He’s improved the spirit of the camp so we’re delighted.

“He knows the game, he knows what it’s like to win big games and big titles, so if at any stage he manages to get on the pitch then that’s an added bonus for us and for him also.”

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