Friday 23 August 2019

'A win is a must for Tyrone or the knives will be out for Harte' - Owen Mulligan feels pressure is on old boss

Owen Mulligan: ‘Tyrone for their part look like a side not happy in their own skin. I see too many long faces coming out after games’. Photo: Sportsfile
Owen Mulligan: ‘Tyrone for their part look like a side not happy in their own skin. I see too many long faces coming out after games’. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

As Tyrone prepare to travel to Newbridge for a Round 3 qualifier against Kildare, the pressure from outside the camp was dialled up by former attacker Owen Mulligan.

Now living in London and managing county champions Fulham Irish, Mulligan does an occasional online column for the Paddy Power website.

While most of this week's musings centred on Donegal and their potential, he is most incendiary when he turns to his own county. He has a habit of capturing what the man on the street is saying. Take his assessment on last weekend's win over Longford, that got Tyrone sitting somewhat upright after their disastrous showing in the Ulster semi-final against Donegal.

"It was a nothing game for Tyrone in Longford last Saturday. Win by ten points and you were playing a poor team. Don't win by enough and you are a poor team," began Mulligan.

"It's hard to know where we are with Tyrone at the minute. There are still loads of question marks floating around them. When Mickey (Harte) started running the bench Longford ended up posting a scoreline that flattered them."

It was his next bit that really raised the eyebrows. "Tyrone for their part look like a side not happy in their own skin. I see too many long faces coming out of changing rooms after games. It all looks like too much hard work for them at present. A trip to Kildare on Saturday night isn't a nice place to go to start feeling better about yourself. A win is a must for Tyrone or the knives will be out for Harte."

The Red Hands have found themselves on punishing journeys through the back door over the last number of summers. Last year they ventured as far away as Navan, Carlow, Enniskillen and then Portlaoise before they made it into the 'Super 8s'. In 2013, they had away days in Tullamore, Roscommon and then Newbridge prior to making it back to Croke Park. And for many seasons, that year's qualifier win over Kildare followed a certain pattern that Tyrone would use games against the Lilies as season launchpads after slow starts.

Such as last year's league clash. Tyrone had lost their two opening league games to Galway and Dublin before they had to travel to Newbridge. In the snow, the two sides were level on seven occasions, until Matthew Donnelly popped up with the winning point in the 75th minute. That year ended with Kildare relegated, while Tyrone reached the All-Ireland final.

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Against Longford, there was a switch in style from the one that transformed their league campaign once they eked out a narrow win against Roscommon. A more expansive approach ran up against Donegal but was dashed away by Declan Bonner's men. Another former player, Brian McGuigan, was unimpressed.

"You talk about young lads taking their chance whenever they get it," McGuigan stated, "and when Michael Cassidy got in, he took his chance in the two games against Derry and Antrim.

"Then he was mysteriously dropped for the game on Saturday. I know Mickey likes taking risks, and he thought that Liam Rafferty could come on and do a job on Ryan McHugh, but for a rookie to come in and mark one of the best players in Ulster, it just didn't work out."

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