Saturday 23 March 2019

Mulligan: We've always had the underdogs tag but we're here to compete

Shane Mulligan. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Shane Mulligan. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

A quick glance at the bookmakers' odds tells its own story.

Mullinalaghta might be three-in-a-row county champions and kings of Leinster, who have developed a happy knack for scalping more celebrated teams, but if the numbers are anything to go by their brilliant adventure will come to an end in Semple Stadium this afternoon.

Kerry champions Dr Crokes are as short as 1/14 in places with Mullinalaghta available at 16/1. Had Kilmacud Crokes lived up to expectations in the Leinster final, the Killarney kingpins would probably still be favourites but it's not hard to imagine the book would look a lot different.

However, it's not something that Shane Mulligan is dwelling on too much.

"Even within the Longford Championship we were underdogs because it's such a small place and small panel of players," he reflected.

"We've always had the underdogs tag so it's something that we're used to and we don't read anything into it. We just try to look after our own performance and our own dressing room. We're not underestimating the task at hand with Dr Crokes.

"If it was Kilmacud and Dr Crokes it wouldn't be looked on as such a foregone conclusion but it is what it is. Any external factors, whether it be odds or favourites or things like that we don't overly read into them. We just try to keep our own house in order and control as much as we can."

"I guess it's very hard to argue that point (that Crokes are favourites) in that Dr Crokes have been on this journey before, they've been a successful club.

"You look at the names within that team and how successful they've been with Kerry.

"It's very hard to argue the point that a Longford champion is going to compete with that. But it is what it is and we're happy to be here in the build up for an All-Ireland semi-final and we're here to compete."

In the meantime, Longford, in the absence of anyone from their county champions, have thrived and sit top of Division 3 in the league while manager Mickey Graham has also taken up his role with Cavan.

Mullinaghata's progress to this level of competition can only be good for the county according to Mulligan.

"I think it can only be a positive thing for Longford football to be competing at this level. You're in an All-Ireland semi-final with Donegal, Kerry and Galway. Longford don't be at that level at inter-county so it's great to see it happen at club level.

"A number of our lads will return to the Longford fold when the club (championship) finishes up and the experience they'll have gained on the Leinster campaign and the All-Ireland series can only be a good thing.

"To bring that into any dressing room or any set-up can only be a positive thing going forward for Longford football.

"I'm sure (Longford manager) Podgie Davis will be keeping an eye on it and hoping he can get the lads back into the fold in good fettle and it'll give Longford GAA a little boost."

That's for down the road. For now, they are hoping to keep the dream alive. However, there's no doubt that the Killarney men will be a step up on anything Mullinalaghta have faced so far.

That Dr Crokes started the Munster club final with six All-Ireland winners from various grades on the bench - including Colm Cooper - has been well established.

"We'll give him a game!" he said of Cooper. "We'll give him a run if he wants to make a move up, I'm sure we'll find somewhere to slot him in.

"It just shows the strength in depth in that club. The Gooch, one of the best players possibly to have ever played Gaelic football. It shows the strength and depth and the talent in the Dr Crokes, we understand that, realise that.

"But we also realise that there is a lot of talent in our own dressing room. That's what we'll be concentrating on. That's for management to have a look at, see what they need to put in place."

"You're in an All-Ireland semi-final, there is no element of surprise. From here on in there is four teams left.

"If you're in an All-Ireland semi-final, I don't think anyone takes anything for granted. We would be hoping to get a performance to match them. That's all we can ask of ourselves."

Irish Independent

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