Mulligan wants Leitrim support to carry into Championship
By John Harrington
Leitrim footballer Emlyn Mulligan has called on the county’s supporters to continue following them in big numbers during this year’s Championship.
A huge crowd of Leitrim supporters made the trip to Croke Park for Saturday’s Allianz Football League Division Four Final and were brilliantly vocal from the first minute to the last.
The result might not have gone their way in the end but, such was the feel-good factor about the day from a Leitrim point of view, that Mulligan believes it has given everyone in the county a huge lift ahead of the Championship.
“It's massive,” said Mulligan after the match. “There's just a pep in the step of Leitrim people. They're proud of where they come from and they're happy to tell people they come from Leitrim whereas sometimes other counties and people in the bigger cities look down on us as if these people don't know where they're coming from or they're from the bog-end of nowhere, as such.
"I don't think the result really mattered to Leitrim people. They still enjoyed the few days in Dublin and it's been a massive occasion for them.
“To see elderly people, 70, 80, 90-year-olds up here today, that's what it's all about. That's the best thing about the GAA, it's the life and soul of every single person in Leitrim and it showed there today with the crowd.
“It was a remarkable occasion for every Leitrim person and the buzz coming up here and driving through Carrick up the M4 and passing Leitrim cars all along the way, it was an occasion to behold and it will live long in the memory and I'm just glad I got to experience it.
“For Leitrim people in general and especially for the younger generation, to see Leitrim run out there, at least they can make that a dream now and dreams can come through. It was massive for us to be able to share that with them.
“We've brought people to games who haven't experienced it in how many years and hopefully it'll give them the ambition to keep supporting Leitrim.
“In seven or eight weeks it would be great to see even half of them over in Hyde Park.”
As much as Mulligan enjoyed the experience of playing in Croke Park, he had already reset his goals for the challenges ahead in the aftermath of Saturday’s defeat to Derry.
And he’s hopeful that the lessons learned from the loss to Derry can be put to use in the Connacht quarter-final against Roscommon on May 12.
“Our focus completely now is on Roscommon,” sad Mulligan. “The Croke Park thing is over, it's done with.
“It was great to get the fans up here today but we need to them to stay on our side now for the next six or seven weeks going into Roscommon because those young lads definitely deserve that.
“They've put in a massive effort and got us up here and I think the only downfall is that we didn't win today. But, listen, there's more to life than winning.
“That experience will stand to them boys for the rest of their careers. Just the experience of getting out in front of that crowd and being in Croke Park. It's something that we've never been in front of and I thought the lads coped well with it today.
“16 points wasn't a bad return, unfortunately Derry were that bit stronger. That's done and dusted now, we'll draw a line across it.
“We'll learn a bit from but we've played Roscommon for the last number of years and it's been plus ten every game in terms of what they've beaten us by and we've set a target down again and giving ourselves some sort of target that we can compete with them.
“I think if the lads regroup again this will bring us on a lot. Hopefully, listen, we're not going to turn around and say we'll beat them, but we'll put every effort in that we'll give ourselves every opportunity that we can be competitive in Hyde Park in six or seven weeks.”
Mulligan concurs with Leitrim manager Terry Hyland’s assessment that Leitrim have enough talent in their ranks to make it back to Croke Park next year for an Allianz Football League Division 3 Final.
"I completely agree," he said. "But I would say it will be one of the toughest Division threes in a long time. You have Tipperary and Cork down there, you have Derry coming up. Westmeath or Louth, Longford. There's a lot of competition there and teams with massive ambition as well.
"But it'll be a great experience for us and it will bring on players as well to be playing a better standard. We'll have to focus on one game at a time, home games will be crucial.
"I suppose that will attract bigger crowds in Pairc Sean as well. Over the years Pairc Sean was a bit of a fortress and we kind of let that go a little bit but thankfully this year we weren't beaten there, even in the FBD we drew with Mayo there.
"We'll bring that on for next year which is massively important."