Owen Mulligan has special reason to be grateful to Mickey Harte for including him in Tyrone’s starting line-up for tonight’s titanic showdown with Dublin at Croke Park.
Not only has he won All-Ireland medals with the Red Hands and his club Cookstown Fr Rock’s there, but he landed what is regarded as one of the greatest goals in the history of the All-Ireland championship when Tyrone beat Dublin on their way to winning ‘Sam’ for the second time in 2005.
He sold two superb dummies, outwitting two defenders in the process, before blasting a shot past Dubs’ keeper Stephen Cluxton then, as now, one of the best custodians in the country.
A few weeks ago Mulligan had, to all appearances, pulled the curtain down on his playing career, seemingly disillusioned because of his non-selection.
He was prevailed upon to return to the squad and having made three appearances as a substitute he will now be in from the start in what is Tyrone’s biggest game of the year to date.
Mulligan, who won an All-Ireland Intermediate Club medal last year when former Tyrone full-back Chris Lawn was in charge of the Cookstown side, can’t wait to run out at Croke Park again.
“This is something that I did not think I would be experiencing, but I am very grateful to be involved,” he said.
“Obviously it is going to be very tough against Dublin who will be very fired up for this game, but I think we are mentally and physically right.”
Now a busy publican in Cookstown, he has shown in his cameo appearances in recent matches that he has lost none of the flair and class that have helped to make him one of the best forwards of the modern era.
He will slot in alongside the impressive Mark Donnelly and Martin Penrose in a Tyrone full-forward line that will hope to avoid a repetition of the profligacy that marked their defeat by Dublin in the corresponding match last year.
Mulligan and Penrose shared 10 points in that game and the former will happily settle for a similar haul tonight, but believes that Tyrone will find it much tougher to land scores since Dublin have tightened up considerably at the back.
“Dublin have won the Leinster title and they will be confident. They have good players in their side and on the bench. They will be very keen to impress and we know they want to end their All-Ireland famine,” said Mulligan.
There will be live coverage of the match on BBC Two NI and on BBC Radio Ulster MW.
Austin O’Callaghan presents on BBC Two NI, starting at 6.45pm. Live radio coverage begins at 6.30pm.