Thursday 17 October 2019

'That’s Mickey Harte, that’s mind games' - Owen Mulligan claims Tyrone boss had hand in timing of Tyrone's TG4 documentary

Mickey Harte
Mickey Harte

Conor McKeon

CALL him crazy – and plenty have many, many times – but Owen Mulligan has a theory.

In fact, he’s nearly certain.

The ‘Unbreakable Bond’ documentary about the emergence of the Tyrone team he was on, the group of men that broke new ground for football in the county but experienced real and repeated personal tragedy, that was screened on TG4 last Sunday was, he reckons, a plant.

“That wasn’t supposed to come out this week,” Mulligan, who was interviewed as part of the show, says with a smile.

“That wasn’t supposed to come out this week at all.

“I have a strong feeling that Harte had something to do with that, do you know what I mean? That’s the sort of cuteness he has.

“The feedback on social media over it was unbelievable. I got a private text myself.

“It was very emotional to watch that. I forgot about some of the stories, it was really, really good to watch. But that’s Harte, that’s mind games that Harte is playing.”

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Obvious follow-up question number 1: When was it supposed to come out?

“Another couple of months yet,” Mulligan asserts.

“I don’t think it was meant to come out this week…actually I know for a fact it wasn’t meant to come out this week because I was actually chatting to the fellas that made it.”

Obvious follow-up question number 2: Why?

“He’s cute at that there because in interviews he’s given he has said, ‘Where’s all the bunting? Where’s all the flags?’

“Next thing, bang, everything comes out. So he tries to get into not only the team’s head but into supporters’ heads.

“And that’s why I think we’re getting the belief out of them.

“Now call us mad, this is probably the best Dublin team, or the best team that I’ll ever see in my lifetime, but Harte has put a massive belief with the interviews he has done.”

So Harte’s influence extends as far as TG4’s scheduling?

And the timing is part of his Machiavellian scheme to whip his county up into a frenzy of self-belief, one the players can’t help but be inspired by?

“I know coming out of Croke Park that day we beat Monaghan,” Mulligan recalls, “the supporters were saying to me ‘If we play like that against Dublin, we are going to get annihilated’.

“I kind of agreed with them on that, they can’t afford to play like that again, they’re going to have to bring a new intensity to the whole thing but the supporters were kind of holding off and then this week it went full fling.

“The songs have come out, the excitement is there, the build-up is there and it’s like the olden days back again, there’s a great buzz around.”

Mulligan, memorably, had a sparky relationship with the man he now admits is the most stubborn he’s ever met.

“Harte, he’s not afraid to reinvent himself. He’s not afraid to make the big calls. He’s axed a few players – I was one of them. If you’re not doing the job, he has no loyalty.

“He’ll say ‘it’s for the best of Tyrone.’ It’s not for the best of him. If he has to make the call on you to better the team, he’ll do that.

“And that’s why he’s so good.”

For all that, Mulligan – who famously scored two goals against Dublin in their 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final and replay saga – says this Dublin team have taken the game to unprecedented levels.

“I’ve never seen a team like Dublin before. I think the team that I played in would struggle against Dublin as well. They don’t care who scores, they complement each other really well. It might be a pass to here (gestures to a short pass) but it’s to better their forwards.

“McManamon came on against Galway, he could have scored 2-6 but he passed it on. He could have scored huge in that game but he didn’t and the rest of the boys are the same. And that’s scary.”

“So I think if Tyrone win this All-Ireland, it’ll be his (Harte’s) biggest achievement.”

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