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Mulligan back and ready to make an impact for Leitrim

A LOT about Emlyn Mulligan sets him apart -- not least the unusual christian name and his dual sporting talents -- yet possibly the strangest of all is his accent.

When the Leitrim footballer opens his mouth his accent is distinctly Donegal.

"That's because we lived in Bundoran until I was about 10 or 11," he says, explaining that the family then moved across the border to Kinlough, on the shores of Lough Melvin. "My dad is from Longford and my mum is from Falcarragh and I went to secondary school in Ballyshannon, which probably explains it."

Donegal's loss was certainly Leitrim's gain when Mulligan burst onto the inter-county scene three summers ago, racking up 0-21 in two Connacht championship games, 0-10 of the total against Galway.

Leitrim were lucky to retain the free-taking centre-forward for another reason, too.

During his teens, Mulligan and a future Irish international were on the exact same soccer career-path until their paths diverged.

"Yes, myself and Seamie (Coleman) came up through the underage system together in Sligo Rovers," he reveals. "I remember we were actually offered contracts at the exact same time."

Mulligan signed a semi-professional contract, but talks with his parents eventually convinced him to plump for a steadier career.

While Coleman threw himself into soccer and has ended up in Everton, Mulligan went to the Garda College in Templemore and eventually threw in his lot with Leitrim GAA, a decision he has never regretted.

But now stationed in Longford, his still burgeoning Gaelic career has taken a few more dramatic twists since. Like Henry Shefflin, Mulligan has suffered two anterior cruciate ligament injuries, all before he was 22.

The first came in April 2009. And just when he thought he was back to full fitness, he suffered the same injury again in March 2010, sitting out two consecutive Connacht championship at a time when he had just started making a name for himself with the county team.

"It was the same knee and it was very demoralising, but you know I never really contemplated quitting, or the thought that I wouldn't get back," the 23-year-old says. "I always felt I would get back and had the time to do so and, thankfully, I have."

Mulligan finally made his long-awaited return off the bench against Wicklow in this year's Allianz League. Leitrim's next game, when they didn't allow Kilkenny a single score, provided him with the perfect opportunity to make a full return.

So, technically he was not one of the seven championship debutants that Leitrim had on board when the Division 4 underdogs shocked Sligo in Connacht's first round.


But his championship return also injected a new impetus into their forwards and he believes their newcomers, especially, brought something fresh, which they're hoping to repeat when they take on defending champions Roscommon this weekend.

"There's a decent bit of quality in the team too," he enthuses, "like the point Wayne McKeon scored off the outside of his boot and that pass James Glancy made for Conor Beirne's goal.

"There's actually very few of us left from the team that lost (1-13 to 0-11) to Roscommon last year ," he stresses. "The only history this Leitrim team has is that we beat Sligo the last day."

It would be wrong to let him go without wondering if there's any truth to the rumour that his parents were Liverpool fans and called him after Emlyn Hughes?

"I've heard that but no, that's not true," Mulligan laughs. "Apparently it was my granny who heard the name and just really liked it and she suggested it to my parents."

Irish Independent