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Tyrone star Mulligan in return trip to Australia

Two high-profile county stars have just taken global journeys in different directions thus further underlining the fact the world is very much the top players’ oyster.

While Tyrone All-Ireland winner Owen Mulligan is destined to spend the next three weeks in Australia, Armagh player Johnny Murtagh has returned from the United States just in time for the delayed start to the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup competition next weekend.

Mulligan, who has three All-Ireland medals to his credit and is regarded as one of the outstanding forwards in the modern game, not only won an Ulster championship medal with Tyrone last year but also assisted his club Cookstown Fr Rocks to win the All-Ireland Intermediate Club title under the capable baton of former Red Hands defender Chris Lawn.

Mulligan’s huge input had much to do with Cookstown’s triumph and Tyrone boss Mickey Harte will be relieved that one of his most experienced forwards will only be ‘Down Under’ for three weeks.

Mulligan, who spent a similar term in Australia in January last year, may come into contention for a place in the squad for the opening National League game against Derry on February 5 although his match fitness could be in question for such an important contest.

Murtagh, meanwhile, had been named among the substitutes for Armagh’s game against Antrim yesterday which fell victim to the weather.

Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke is certainly happy to see Murtagh back in his squad particularly as he is currently without two of his best attacking aces in Jamie Clarke and Ronan Clarke.

“Obviously we are glad to have someone of Johnny’s ability back on board and we will see how he goes,” said O’Rourke. “We will be playing Down next Saturday and that will be a significant test for us although both teams will obviously be missing some familiar names for a variety of reasons.

Nonetheless I don’t think that this will in any way detract from the appeal of the game.”

He had chosen Kieran Toner, normally a midfielder, to fulfil the role of full-back against Antrim and he is likely to say ‘same again’ for the Down game as regular No 3 Brendan Donaghy is lining out with UUJ in the McKenna Cup.

Also in the Jordanstown squad is the talented Eugene McVerry who played a major role when Armagh won the All-Ireland Minor football championship title two years ago.

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