Tuesday 16 January 2018

Playing in Dublin will make me better – Mulligan

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Emlyn Mulligan has acknowledged his eyes have been opened to the yawning gap that exists between football in his native Leitrim and Dublin since he switched clubs earlier this year.

Mulligan (right) left his home club Melvin Gaels for St Brigid's after taking up residence in Blanchardstown – he is a garda based in Longford – and says the difference in standards is incomparable.

Leitrim's captain for Sunday's second Connacht semi-final against London believes the switch will ultimately benefit him on a personal level.

"It's a totally different standard in comparison to what I was playing in Leitrim. If you went to a Leitrim club league game and then came up and played in the games I've played in recently, it's two different levels," said Mulligan. "That can only benefit me as a footballer, playing with such quality players, seeing can you do it against them.

"There is no comparison with the level, the standard of senior football here. No disrespect to Leitrim, but it is an acknowledged fact."

St Brigid's have a strong Leitrim connection, with Jason Ward and Declan Darcy among those who have a shared past, and Mulligan accepts that resources will always leave Leitrim clubs stretched.

"The population that St Brigid's are picking from is about three or four times more than the whole county of Leitrim," he said.

"It's an obvious fact but there's obviously a lot more resources up here, good quality pitches, money.

"Clubs at home in Leitrim are just losing players by the day. It's unfortunate to see but they're still battling on down there. My old club Melvin Gaels, I wish them the best of luck this year. I know they'll be there or thereabouts, but I think (the move) can only benefit me."

Mulligan has already come out strongly in support of the management's decision to drop four players for disciplinary reasons last month and he believes that will make the bond between the rest of the panel stronger than ever before.

"We'll have the heads down and we'll come out fighting. I'm sure it will put us tighter together. We're not going to let this opportunity slip," he warned.

Mulligan says the big advantage Leitrim have over any other team playing London is that traditionally they are always considered the most vulnerable in the province to the Exiles.

"We've played London plenty of times and I suppose we know what they're capable of," he said.

"One advantage Leitrim have, actually, is that we know London can beat us whereas other counties in Connacht take them for granted.

"But we know they can beat us and maybe we had that issue too last year when we went over there and we were lucky to get out with a small margin of a victory over them.

"I wouldn't read much into the league game this year (Leitrim beat London by just two points at home) because it was the last game and there was nothing to play for."

The prize of a first Connacht final appearance in 13 years and progression to the last 12, as far as Leitrim have been since the inception of the qualifiers in 2001, makes this their most important game in years, admits Mulligan.

"We'd have been giving us a great chance of getting to the Connacht final, even if we were against Sligo," he said.

"We're confident enough in our own ability and confident enough that we can get a win. We can never be complacent against any team, no more than when we were playing New York – we had to treat that like it was a Connacht final for us.

"We have to take every game as it comes and London is no different. We're looking forward to it. It's a great position to be in, because we haven't had a better chance in 13 years to get to a Connacht final and that's the main goal from the start of the year."

Irish Independent

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