The talented footballer has been announced as the Young Sportstar of the Year
Within the remarkable rollercoaster story that has been Mayo football over the last decade or so, has been the county’s consistent ability to produce a steady stream of dynamic defenders.
That list includes some of the best backs of the modern era in the likes of Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan. Men who carried the fight regardless of the circumstances. And that makes it all the more remarkable that the county look to have another emerging star in that mould in Oisín Mullin.
It’s early days for the Kilmaine youngster of course. But there was enough in his performances in their run to the 2020 All-Ireland final to suggest they have an heir worthy of those heavyweight names.
“They are big influences,” Mullin said of the established Mayo defenders, some of whom have called time on their inter-county careers. “They have done the rounds and been there for years so you pick up lots of small things from them and what they’ve learned. It’s very helpful for myself and the young lads coming through on the team.
“I’d seen the environment of it and knew what I’d have to do to get into the team and to develop myself so I had a good insight into where I needed to be.”
Powerful and explosive, Mullin’s performances in 2020 have earned him the Irish Independent Young Sportstar of the Year. But his season might have looked very different.
He was due to travel to Australia in March for an AFL combine. Mullin had impressed enough in trials here that he was going to be flown to Australia with a handful of other Irish hopefuls for AFL clubs to have a closer look. At the time the feeling within Mayo was that he would be snapped up given his skill set.
However, the pandemic put paid to that and Mullin set about building on his burgeoning reputation here.
Mayo manager James Horan demonstrated the depth of faith in him that exists in the county when he entrusted Mullin with tracking some of the biggest names in the game. Prior to 2020, he’d had only limited exposure to top level football, making the match day panel as an unused sub for the Super 8s clash with Meath the season before. But he’d feature regularly in 2020 and was given the job of following the likes of Conor McManus and David Clifford.
“They are big names. But I suppose I try and not think about it too much,” Mullin said. “Growing up playing with the minors and the 20s, a lot of the jobs I was doing were man-marking jobs so I wouldn’t really try think too much about the player and just focus on the job to help the team as much as possible.”
In his own words, Mullin was something of a late bloomer in a physical sense: “I didn’t really shoot up until I was 17.” But the delay mid-season last year also helped him develop physically. Mayo JFC club success with Kilmaine was another boost.
“The six months in between was strange. It was hard to know what to do because you didn’t how long it was until you’d get to play football or even if football was going to go ahead. We were given gym programs and running programs to do so that kept me busy, then the club started up again, got back in there and you could use that as a preseason for the county as well.
“The club went well, we ended up winning the county junior final with Kilmaine so that was a nice platform going into the championship season.”
By the time Mayo popped up in the All-Ireland final, Mullin was a nailed on starter, entrusted with tagging Con O’Callaghan in Croke Park. O’Callaghan had his moments but so did Mullin. For many, he was Mayo’s best player on the night.
It might have been an all too familiar result for Mayo in the final. But over the course of last year’s Championship Mullin and Eoghan McLaughlin became the first players born in this millennium to play senior football for Mayo. They’ll be hoping that, in time, they can help bring a new era of another kind.