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Mulligan knows the score as Monaghan target a minor boost

 

By John Campbell

Aaron Mulligan may have been hitting the high spots lately due to his finishing prowess, but the talented Monaghan minor team forward is much more concerned with seeing his side achieve what would be a significant victory over Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland Football semi-final at Croke Park (1.30pm).

Mulligan not only collected the Player of the Match award following his team's win over Derry in the Ulster final (1-9 to 0-9) but he went on to help himself to 1-3 when Monaghan overcame Kildare (2-11 to 0-8) in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

In tandem with the rest of the Farney side, Mulligan acknowledges that their clash with Kerry represents the biggest test of their playing careers to date given that the Kingdom have won the last four All-Ireland titles.

"Obviously Kerry will be favourites to win, and that's easy to understand when you look at their track record, but we have belief in our own ability to deliver a performance. It's great to be going to Croke Park for a match like this. We did not think we would have gone this far at the start of the Ulster Championship," said Mulligan.

While his personal feats have been winning him plaudits, he is quick to point out that Monaghan are not short on scoring talent.

Donnacha Swinburne, Sean Jones, Karl Gallagher, Loughlin Power and skipper Brendan Duffy are other players who can help to set the tempo for what Mulligan hopes will prove a winning performance.

"We know we are up against it but we will be giving it everything. To get to the All-Ireland final would be a massive bonus for this Monaghan team," he said.

The emphatic manner in which Kerry disposed of Clare in the Munster final (3-21 to 1-7) suggests that they have every intention of maintaining their stranglehold on the All-Ireland trophy, but Mulligan is encouraged by Monaghan's spirit and cohesion this year to date.

"There is a good bond within the side and we will be ready to play ourselves to a standstill on Sunday," he added.

Paul Walsh, Darragh Rahilly, Dylan Geaney and Jack O'Connor are key players in a Kerry side that has been maintaining the great tradition established by the county at minor level.

Manager Peter Keane has instilled a work ethic within the team that has made them irrepressible, so the task confronting Monaghan could hardly be more formidable.

Meanwhile, Derry's Barry Cassidy will take charge of Saturday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final involving Dublin and Galway.

Cassidy has handled a number of top-flight games of late and has been gaining status as a member of the elite panel of championship referees.

This will be one of his most important assignments to date and could prove the precursor to even further recognition.

Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan will be the man in the middle when Tyrone go head to head with Monaghan in Sunday's second All-Ireland senior semi-final.

This will be a huge task for Nolan who has been taking more of a centre-stage role recently.

He took charge of last year's All-Ireland MFC final, this year's Allianz League final between Dublin and Galway, the 2018 Leinster Under-20 football final and three of this year's championship games.

However, none will compare to Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final, which is set to played out in an electric atmosphere.

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