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Mulligan ramps up heat on struggling Red Hands

 

Familiar foes: Kildare’s Chris Healy battles with Ronan McNamee of Tyrone
Familiar foes: Kildare’s Chris Healy battles with Ronan McNamee of Tyrone
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

As Tyrone prepare to travel to Newbridge for a round three qualifier against Kildare, the pressure from outside the camp was dialled up by former attacker Owen Mulligan.

Now living and working in London and managing the recent county champions Fulham Irish, Mulligan contributes an occasional online column for the Paddy Power website.

While most of this week's offerings centred around Donegal and the potential they have, he is most incendiary when he turns to his own county. He has a happy habit of capturing what the man on the street is saying.

Take his assessment on last weekend's win over Longford, that got Tyrone sitting somewhat upright after their disastrous showing in the Ulster semi-final against Donegal.

"It was a nothing game for Tyrone in Longford last Saturday. Win by ten points and you were playing a poor team. Don't win by enough and you are a poor team," began Mulligan.

"It's hard to know where we are with Tyrone at the minute. There are still loads of question marks floating around them.

"When Mickey started running the bench Longford ended up posting a scoreline that flattered them."

It was his next bit that really raised the eyebrows.

"Tyrone for their part look like a side not happy in their own skin.

"I see too many long faces coming out of changing rooms after games. It all looks like too much hard work for them at present.

"A trip to Kildare on Saturday night isn't a nice place to go to start feeling better about yourself. A win is a must for Tyrone or the knives will be out for Harte. It's very much a case of a win in 'Newbridge or Nowhere' for Tyrone this weekend."

Despite their sizeable support who display remarkable loyalty to the team, they have found themselves on punishing journeys through the backdoor system over the last number of summers.

Last year they ventured as far away as Navan, Carlow, Enniskillen and then Portlaoise before they made it into the Super 8s which involved trips to Ballybofey and Croke Park.

In 2015, they had an away day to Semple Stadium in Thurles.

Two years prior they were in Tullamore, Roscommon and then Newbridge prior to making it back to Croke Park.

And for many seasons, that 2013 qualifier against Kildare followed a certain pattern that Tyrone would use games against Kildare as launchpads for their seasons that traditionally get off to slow starts.

Such as the 2018 league meeting. Tyrone had lost their two opening league games to Galway and Dublin before they had to travel to Newbridge.

In the snow, the two sides were level on seven occasions, until Matthew Donnelly popped up with the winning point in the 75th minute.

That year ended with Kildare relegated having failed to win a single game in the league, while Tyrone of course reached the All-Ireland final.

The fall-out from the Donegal match has been addressed. Against Longford, there was a definite switch in style from the one that transformed their league campaign once they eked out a narrow win against Roscommon.

A more expansive approach ran up against Donegal but was dashed away by Declan Bonner's men and suddenly, their predictability was exposed.

Another former player, Brian McGuigan, was suitably unimpressed.

"You talk about young lads taking their chance whenever they get it," McGuigan stated, "and when Michael Cassidy got in, he took his chance in the two games against Derry and Antrim.

"Then he was mysteriously dropped for the game on Saturday. I know Mickey likes taking risks, and he thought that Liam Rafferty could come on and do a job on Ryan McHugh, but for a rookie to come in and mark one of the best players in Ulster, it just didn't work out."

Harte refused to accept that he made significant changes to his gameplan after the Longford game, responding to reporters; "This number-crunching that goes on, we get over-burdened with it.

"That's the way the game is played now, lots of people get players behind the ball when the opposition have it and they try to take it from them and go on the counter-attack."

Either way, the pressure is on for a beleaguered Tyrone squad.

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