Owen Mulligan’s future with Tyrone may be clouded in uncertainty, particularly as the team has flown from the starting blocks to reach the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup final but his commitment to Cookstown Fr Rocks is absolute.
And when the 31-year-old triple All-Ireland winner with the Red Hands leads his club out against Charlestown Sarsfields on Sunday, he is hoping it will be to surmount the penultimate hurdle en route to a second national honour in just three years.
The Cookstown outfit won the All-Ireland Intermediate crown in 2010 when Mulligan, as now, was a key cog in their attack.
But this time round the veteran forward is presented with the opportunity of captaining the team to the biggest prize of all, something that has special significance for him.
“In all my time playing I have never skippered a side and when I was appointed by manager John McKeever last year I was delighted,” explains Mulligan.
“We have won the Tyrone and Ulster titles so far and I was very proud to receive both trophies on behalf of the club. It would be a fantastic honour for me if I were to lead this team to All-Ireland glory.”
Mulligan, though, accepts the Mayo and Connacht champions Charlestown will be formidable opponents in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final at Longford.
The westerners are powered by dynamic county midfield ace Tom Parsons and have other quality players in David Caffrey, Aiden Higgins and Anthony Mulligan.
“Charlestown showed in winning the Mayo crown and the provincial title that they are a very good side. From what we know they are very fit and work hard,” says Mulligan.
But while he himself provides a rich thread of experience in attack, the Cookstown side contains quality in other areas.
Conor Mullan and Conor O’Hare have proven to be a solid midfield partnership while Ryan Pickering and Stephen Monaghan and goalkeeper Marty Rea are key defenders with John Gilmore, James McGahan and Shea McGarrity capable of providing support to skipper Mulligan up front.
Manager John McKeever, who hails from Portglenone, believes that his squad’s “total dedication” to training can prove a telling attribute on Sunday.
“We did well over a hundred sessions last year and we have been hard at it since the New Year dawned so we won’t be found wanting on the scores of fitness and stamina. There is total dedication within this group of players,” insists McKeever.
And he adds: “Against Doohamlet in the semi-final and against Warrenpoint in the final of the Ulster club championship we were given very hard games and I honestly think that these ties have prepared us very well for Sunday’s clash with Charlestown.
“We now know for sure just what it takes to win championship matches and we are fortunate indeed to have a great leader like Owen Mulligan. He played under some great captains including Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher and obviously learned from them and now we are the beneficiaries of this. I would just love to see him lead us to All-Ireland glory.”