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Leitrim have had the luxury of being able to hold star forward Emlyn Mulligan in reserve so far in the League.
Leitrim have had the luxury of being able to hold star forward Emlyn Mulligan in reserve so far in the League.

Emlyn Mulligan hoping for new Championship format

By Cian O'Connell

Leitrim footballer Emlyn Mulligan is hopeful a Second Tier Championship will be introduced soon.

Even though Leitrim featured in four matches this summer Mulligan believes a new format would aid developing counties significantly.

"Yeah, it would definitely appeal to me," Mulligan says. "We're sitting idle a long time now since June.

"I did a few media gigs at the Super 8s and it was great watching on at the games but at the same time, regardless of the level I'd love to be out there playing again in some sort of a competition. Because we're not improving. In the last three years we've drawn Roscommon in the draw.

"Them lads were playing in the Super 8s regardless of whether they were getting hammered or not they're still getting games against massive teams. Whereas we can see the progression we got even by beating Louth, we put it up to Monaghan for periods of the game. If you had another two or three games in a different competition it's going to bring you on naturally.

"There's players there from bigger counties, the likes of Dublin, that have probably played more Championship games in a year than even myself has played throughout my career. When you're looking back on that basis, games are the only way you're going to improve. The more games the better is the way I look at it."

Does Mulligan feel that a different format is imminent? "You'd hope it is," Mulligan responds. "In fairness, you say it's a big chance and it is surely.

"The Super 8s came around and you're looking at them enforcing these new rules. It doesn't take them that long to make some changes. This is one of the biggest problems at the minute - players sitting idle since the start of June and watching on as other counties are playing in different competitions and now the Super 8s are there. I just believe there should be another system, whether they change the structure of the Championship I don't know.

Emlyn Mulligan during the Connacht SFC clash between Leitrim and Roscommon in May.
Emlyn Mulligan during the Connacht SFC clash between Leitrim and Roscommon in May.

"Be it that there's three groups of eight or whatever it maybe, and they're ran alongside each other and there's a final in Croke Park. That's what lads dream of. I've never played in Croke Park, but that's what you aspire to do to get there.

"Regardless of what way you get there at this stage, I just want to be up there and you want to be there in the middle of August still playing county football."

Mulligan doesn't think that a lot of players and other counties are against trialling a fresh approach. "I know you have a man across there from Carlow (Paul Broderick), they've a totally different opinion on it and you can understand," Mulligan accepts.

"I think the likes of their wins last year or even ours against Louth, I just personally think they're covering the cracks to be honest. If you go through other counties and how many hammerings they've got throughout their time. It's covering over cracks. "You've one great success story and you've 10 behind it and it's just covering up for the GAA. It's easy for Turlough O'Brien or even our own managers coming out and saying, 'It's great.' But you have to be realistic.

"In the Connacht championship I've only one victory ever in my 11 years playing if you take London and New York out of it. That's against Sligo in 2011. You're playing that long you'd have hoped you would have had a bit more playing teams at your own level.

"But we're in Connacht with three teams that are competing in Division 1, it's very hard for us to up our game three divisions come Championship day. "You'll be talking about it for a long time but you just hope someone maybe can just say, 'Right this has to be done' and people get in behind it to get good support from county managers more so than anyone else."

A decade on the inter-county beat with Leitrim Mulligan still thoroughly enjoys the game. "I love it," Mulligan admits. "I do love it. I suppose I've been lucky enough to get gigs like this to come up to. I've got a lot out of the game. I've always played for Leitrim trying to make them a better team and trying to push them on for younger lads that want to play for Leitrim. I always think people look down on us.

"My biggest pet hate is reading articles where they compare Dublin to Leitrim and it's always Leitrim. That really annoys me. I'm like, why not compare it to Wicklow? Why not compare it to Carlow? We're actually fine in Leitrim. We've money, we're happy out, we're well looked after, we don't want for anything, we know no better. But it's always 'poor Leitrim.'

New Leitrim manager Terry Hyland.
New Leitrim manager Terry Hyland.

"I always give off the perception that we need to change this. It's a mentality outside of Leitrim where young lads are going to college up in UCD or DCU and I can guarantee to go to a Sigerson trial and are asked where they're from. They say Leitrim and they won't look at you as eagerly as a lad that's playing with St Vincent's in Dublin.

"But it's up to us to change that. You see the perspective now of Carlow, it's changed completely. That's what we're trying to aim for and strive for. "But again, we just need to have our best players there and unfortunately year in year out, it's a struggle to get them all to commit.

"But hopefully Terry (Hyland) will be the man in the middle that can get them all to pull together for the year ahead."

The arrival of former Cavan manager Terry Hyland is a boost according to Mulligan. "I've been speaking to him a few times, he seems to have gotten a decent backroom team into place," Mulligan states.

"Jason Reilly is in as coach by all accounts, chatting to Cavan people he seems to be very good and he was a great footballer himself.

"There's a few other strong candidates in there that'll give him a boost. Chatting to a few of the lads, a lot of them are excited about going back. The biggest thing for us is keeping 99% of players we had last year and bring in a couple extra that maybe walked away last year or the year before.

"There's confidence around the county. As I said, Division Four is our target and hopefully Terry will bring in that experience he's had. He brought Cavan from, I think, Division Three to Division One so he knows the ins and outs of how it's done. Looking forward to getting at it again. Hard to believe it's come back around already at this stage of the year.

"I'm sure Terry will be getting us to put the head down over the next couple of weeks and trying to put a system in place to get us ready for the National League at the end of January."

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