GAA Football

Former Tyrone star Owen Mulligan dreaming of return after final heartache

Former Red Hand forward Owen Mulligan has been manager of Fulham Irish for the past two years, leading the club to last year's London final
Neil Loughran

WHAT a difference six months makes. Back in October, Owen Mulligan didn’t want to see an O’Neill’s ball again after his Fulham Irish side blew a six-point lead to lose the London SFC final by a point.

In his second year donning the bainisteoir’s bib, the first not playing at all, that defeat to Tir Chonaill Gaels was a bitter pill to swallow. However, after only returning to Tyrone from England’s capital last week, the former Red Hand star would give anything to be walking the line again.

With the sporting calendar shrouded in uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a long wait looks likely before club or county panels can come together again – and Mulligan is one of many eagerly anticipating the day the green light is given for a return.

“It still kills me,” he says of that London decider disappointment.

“That was my first year not playing and it’s tough - there’s nothing like playing. I put a lot of work into that final and losing took an awful lot out of me… as the manager, you’re always going to blame yourself.

“I’ve probably watched the DVD of it 16 or 17 times, but you have to take it on the chin. The players gave me everything but it just wasn’t to be.

“We’re in a WhatsApp group and when you’re beat by a point in a final like that, you want to get back onto the training ground and right the wrongs from that day.

“There’s only so far running and fitness can take you, but there’s so many things I’ve written down and taken notes of about that day, but we can’t do anything about it at the minute. It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day peoples’ health is far more important than anything.”

Mulligan, who has bars in Cookstown and Liverpool, returned home from London after the job he was working on stopped. And the three-time All-Ireland winner admits he was happy enough to be heading back to Ireland during such a strange time.

“I don’t really mind - I’ve plenty of work to do around Mulligan’s Bar so I’ll be kept busy, thank God. I’ve been gasping for a pint so I might have to isolate in the bar for a while!

“I was doing site management for JJ Rhatigan over in London and they followed every rule – the social distancing, the site numbers were cut from 140 or so to 70, we managed the people the best we could.

“It’s a ghost town over there at the minute… it’s scary times. I live near Clapham Common, just below London Bridge, and it’s normally really busy but there’s just nobody.

“I bought a wee van a few months back because I didn’t want to be going on the tube. The traffic in London’s usually a disaster, but I was getting to work in an hour where it would normally take nearly three times that.

“It’s very eerie - it feels as if there’s a war going on.”

Mulligan is the first up in a new series called ‘Best of Enemies’, which starts in today’s Irish News, with the former Tyrone star reliving some of the most memorable battles from his playing days – including those unforgettable tussles with Armagh’s Francie Bellew.

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GAA Football