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'Leitrim will never progress if they aren't punished'

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Emlyn Mulligan

Emlyn Mulligan

Emlyn Mulligan

Leitrim captain Emlyn Mulligan has given his firm backing to the team management's decision to remove four players from the squad for the remainder of the season, for disciplinary reasons.

Mulligan believes joint managers George Dugdale and Barney Breen were left with no choice but to take such action on Tuesday night when the squad convened for training after a weekend of club action.

Wayne McKeon, Shane Moran and Tomas and Conor Beirne have felt the wrath of the management, who are prepared to adhere to strict rules and regulations laid down, at the obvious risk of losing a Connacht semi-final to London next month.

Mulligan admitted he felt like he got a "box in the face" when he heard what was alleged to have happened to merit such censure and feels the management, players and supporters have been "let down."

"Since the New York game there was a pact made again, and again unfortunately it was broken," Mulligan revealed.

"They just had to face the consequences. What's good for one is good for the other. It's awful unfortunate. I felt like I got boxed in the face when I heard what happened – players have been let down, management, supporters too.

"I know everybody understands that. They have to understand where the players and management are coming from.

"It's the opportunity we have to reach a Connacht final for the first time in 13 years, and they don't come around too often. As a group of players and management, we're just really disappointed with the behaviour of the lads."

Mulligan is in no doubt that "action had to be taken" even though the incident involved some of the county's strongest players.

"No more than any other county, we have rules and regulations, and one of the punishments was automatically being put off the panel," he said.

He said it wasn't the first time this Leitrim management had been forced to take this action, but feels it could benefit them in the long run.

"We had the same situation last year with a player, but it's disappointing because four is a large number and it's the quality of the players who have been got rid of too..." he said.

Mulligan accepted that the removal of four players from a county squad with such limited resources was a significant risk.

"That's why it's getting so much media attention because it's four players and I suppose, as a so-called weaker county, (it is felt) we couldn't afford to lose players like that," he said.

"At the same time, we have a management that are looking for (strong discipline). It's a kind of a thing in Leitrim – I'm there six or seven years now and it keeps happening every year.

STOPPED

"This needs to be cut out. There are players there 10 years on that panel and it has never stopped, that sort of thing," added Mulligan, a Longford-based garda now playing his club football with St Brigid's in Blanchardstown.

"It has to be a line drawn for the future of Leitrim football. Leitrim will never progress if these boys aren't punished for their mistakes – that's looking at the long-term effect.

"In the short term, it will obviously affect the team going into the London game but we'll just have to put that in the back of our minds, gather into a tight group and put the heads down."

Mulligan admitted the adherence to such rules and regulations in nearby counties like Donegal and Mayo had served them well and that they had to take notice.

"They would be very seldom putting a foot out of line. I'm just truly and utterly disappointed as captain of the team. But at the same time I want to be leading out 15 or 20 fellas who are willing to put everything into it for the cause of the Leitrim jersey and the Leitrim supporters," he said.

Mulligan is still angry about an incident from a league match earlier in the year, where he alleged that he had blood spat at him by an opponent in a league game against Offaly.

"I made my statement and whether people agreed with me or not, I was very disappointed with what happened that day," he said.

The player in question was served with a two-match suspension.

Irish Independent