GAA Football

Owen Mulligan aiming to pass on the lessons he learned to Tyrone U20s

Owen Mulligan greets then Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after a league victory over Kerry

EXAMPLES can be good and bad - and Owen Mulligan is aiming to provide both in his new role with the Tyrone U20s management.

'Mugsy' is a Red Hand playing legend, a winner of three senior football All-Irelands, but he also has a reputation as a 'party animal'.

The Cookstown man readily acknowledges that he could have achieved even more in his playing career:

"If you want to say I have regrets, I definitely have regrets. I've been one of the better players for Tyrone over the years but I've also probably been a 'cancer' as well."

Yet he turned his attitude around and reaped rewards, as he recalls: "In my later [playing] years, when I turned 30, I wish I had been as committed as I was then to training and stuff in my early 20s because I probably would have got a lot more honours.

"I know the club benefitted from me not playing for the county. I think I was 31 when I stopped playing for Tyrone. The club, along with Chris Lawn and John McKeever, won [Intermediate] All-Irelands and we were so professional in doing things."

Having been brought in by Tyrone U20 boss Paul Devlin to join former county colleague Dermot Carlin, Mulligan will pass on the lessons he learned himself the hard way:

"I think young lads need to hear that, about both ends of the stick. If you're going into that assistant manager/ trainer role you have to be truthful to the players and I will be truthful to the players.

"I think they will respect you more, that you have messed about and you've come out the other end of it. That's what I hopefully can get across to the players."

After turning 40 in the summer, Mulligan insists that he's at a new stage of his GAA career, putting the past behind him:

"There is a perception out there, there always has been. Probably a bit of fault of my own. I've had history of messing about and things like that - but that is history.

"We've had Owen Mulligan the player; now it's time for Owen Mulligan the coach."

Although he's an iconic figure in Tyrone football, the players he'll be working with will probably only have seen him at his best on video. He insists that it doesn't matter whether or not he's a hero to them:

"As I said, Owen Mulligan the player is gone. It's now Owen Mulligan the coach and it's a new chapter in my life. I didn't think I'd get this call so early.

"The players don't need to know what I did in the past [as a player]. It's not about me, it's about the Tyrone team, the Tyrone set-up, the players coming through."

The Red Hands are at the top, having won the Sam Maguire Cup earlier this summer, but Mulligan says that's the expectation within the county:

"You saw [at the All-Ireland Final], it was just unbelievable scenes, it was so emotional at the end. Those boys have been through the mill, they had lost an All-Ireland Final [in 2018].

"Tyrone are all about winning Ulsters and All-Irelands now. That's what we want to be at. We want to be dining at the top table year in, year out. I'm only a part, a cog hopefully to help us do that."

Tyrone's teenage attackers will now be learning from one of the best. "The lads are looking me to work with the forwards and I'm looking forward to doing that. There's craft there, if you want to call it 'sneakiness', to being a forward. I thought I had that.

"I hadn't that much pace but I knew where to move, where to run. That's what it's all about and I think the Tyrone lads will benefit from that."

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