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Mulligan sights fixed on back to back

Owen Mulligan derived considerable satisfaction from the spectacular goal he scored for reigning Ulster champions Tyrone against Antrim in the quarter-final of the provincial football Championship last month — a score that effectively crushed the Saffrons’ hopes recovery.

But while he had cause for celebration he did not dwell on his team’s hurdling of the first obstacle on what could yet prove to be the path to successive Ulster titles.

Instead, the seasoned corner forward, an All Ireland Club title winner with Cookstown Fr Rock’s earlier this year, immediately turned his attention to his team’s next outing.

Today he steps out against Down at Casement Park and he is even more focussed on what he describes as “a very big game” for the Red Hands.

“Down have made very good progress this year under James McCartan and they will have taken great heart from their extra-time quarter-final win against Donegal,” he said.

“For our part, while we were very happy to get over Antrim, we know it will take a lot more effort and intensity if we are to get the better of Down.

“They will be very comfortable in Casement Park and they appear not only to have a decent side but to have useful options on their bench.”

In tandem with the rejuvenated Stephen O’Neill he formed a dynamic two-man full-forward line against the Saffrons and the duo will again be joined at the hip today as the Red Hands go in search of an even bigger score.

Five of their starting forwards scored against Liam Bradley’s side the exception being Joe McMahon but that’s because the Omagh St Enda’s clubman was in a deep-lying role assisting the defence and winning invaluable break ball in the middle third of the pitch.

“We had a good spread of scorers against Antrim but it certainly won’t be easy getting scores against this Down defence,” said. Mulligan. “This is a very big game for us – we don’t want to miss out on a place in the Ulster final nor do we want to have to go through the Qualifiers if we can help it at all.”

Even though he has three All Ireland medals to his credit, Cookstown’s All Ireland Club triumph will always hold a special place in his heart.

“It was a very emotional occasion for us all, a mighty breakthrough,” said Mulligan.

“We worked very hard and it was great that everything came up trumps. Chris Lawn proved a great manager.

“Now I would love to see Tyrone win consecutive Ulster titles and maybe make a good stab at the All Ireland but it’s this match against Down that is my sole focus. James McCartan has them very fired up and their promotion in the league has given them added confidence.”

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