Wednesday 21 August 2019

Mulligan laments Derry demise as Tyrone move 'way ahead' of rivals

Owen Mulligan. Photo: Sportsfile
Owen Mulligan. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Owen Mulligan longs for a time when Tyrone and Derry knocked lumps out of each other as the Red Hand legend expects Mickey Harte's side to coast to victory in Sunday's (4.0) Ulster SFC preliminary-round clash.

Mulligan played for Tyrone when epic battles with Derry lit up the provincial campaign but Damian McErlain's Oak Leafers - this year's Division 4 league champions - have slipped off the radar in recent seasons and Mulligan is expecting one-way traffic in Omagh.

"I fancy Tyrone. I fancy Tyrone will beat them strong, I do. I don't really see… Tyrone are way ahead of Derry at the minute, way ahead. Double scores I can see, no problem," Paddy Power GAA ambassador Mulligan said.

"It's not right. I know growing up and when I played, those games were brilliant.

"You need Tyrone and Derry to be at each other from the word go. You were marking (Seán Marty) Lockhart and Niall McCusker.

"I'm going seeing Tyrone and Derry playing there two years ago and they're shaking hands and laughing.

"If you're going to mark a man, you have to mark them like the old days, the way those boys would have marked us. It doesn't seem to be that way in Derry.

"The Tyrone-Derry games of years ago, you knew you were in a game. You were coming off and you were sore, good battles.

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"There doesn't seem to be that rivalry anymore.

"Tyrone have gone way ahead and it's just another game.

"Will the ground even be stuffed? I don't know, because it's not a contest. Derry supporters don't even believe they're going to win and it's not right because of Tyrone's superiority."

Mulligan believes the cause of Derry's demise is a "club-v-county thing" which must be solved if they are to dine anywhere near football's top table again.

"They didn't want to play for the county. It's one of the biggest honours you can get. You've that with the clubs, all right club football in Derry is class, it's a really good competition, I've been to a few matches. Why can they not transfer that on?" Mulligan asked.

"Why can you not do that? Why do you not want to play for your county? It baffles me. Maybe the club structure, maybe the schools as well, St Pat's Maghera, they're competing nearly every time. I just think Tyrone has gone way ahead.

"They've invested in youth and it's reaping rewards. There's this conveyor belt that's never stopped in Tyrone. I haven't seen a conveyor belt in Derry for a long time. Maybe the schools have to look at it, maybe the clubs have to look at it (as well)."

Mulligan is confident that Tyrone's 2015 All-Ireland U-21-winning squad - which contained the likes of Padraig Hampsey and Cathal McShane - are about to hit their peak this season.

"I'd like to think they're going to peak now, they've got the experience, they've lost an All-Ireland final. I think they have to start winning, I think they'll win Ulster this year but it's about what they do after it," Mulligan said.

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