Connolly in line for 'special treatment'
Mulligan predicts Hampsey will mark returning Dubs ace
When Owen Mulligan uses the phrase "special treatment," he's doesn't mean it in the beauty salon/airline upgrade sense.
Instead, he employs it as a prediction to the approach Tyrone will take to limiting the influence of Diarmuid Connolly next Sunday.
"You only have to look at his discipline record," outlined Mulligan, one of several Hill 16 pantomime villains from that great Tyrone team of the noughties.
"And I think Tyrone will pounce on that, they'll definitely target it in the same we as we would have targeted."
Mulligan references a recent column written by Alan Brogan on these pages in which he described the "hatred" that built to an intemperate crescendo between Dublin and Tyrone in the latter part of the last decade, an antipathy that faded as Mickey Harte's men became less prominent in the All-Ireland picture.
The way Mulligan sees it, Brogan "hated Tyrone because we targeted him".
"He was the best player on the field," he reasons.
"That's the way it is now in Gaelic football, you target the best players. You've to target the score-getters.
"We targeted him over the years and those boys would be no different. That's the way Mickey Harte goes about his business.
"The best players have to be cancelled out of the game, and you have a better chance of winning it.
"He'll (Connolly) be in for special treatment I would say."
Define 'special treatment'?
Some of the Tyrone team of Mulligan's vintage were renowned for their mastery of what have become known as 'the dark arts.'
Darragh Ó Sé once euphemistically wrote that there was "something to be said for pulling his tail and seeing if he'll hiss back at you", a remark which drew a response from Dublin CEO John Costello, who branded the comments "mean-spirited", adding "the choice of language was somewhat inflammatory."
Mulligan clarifies: "I'm not on for a man getting a box to the back of the head or a box to the back of the neck.
"But you have to get up close and personal in championship games.
"That's our take on it. That's been the Tyrone way. There are boys there that can do that. I am not saying who is going to mark him."
Although when asked, he's inclined to think Pádraig Hampsey will perform that particular number when and if required.
"I'd like to see Hampsey on him, so I would. Hampsey is a top-class player."
Not only is Hampsey an exceptionally tight defender, he has scored five points from play in this year's Championship, including two beauties from long range in the Ulster final against Donegal.
"He has come on this last year now and he's another one of those players that seem to come up with the scores," Mulligan confirms.
"And if he can do that, and he's marking Connolly, Connolly will have a bit of a job on his hands as well. I think it would be a great battle on the field to see that."
Hampsey is, Mulligan explains, "a hardy boy now."
"He would have been a boxer in his day," he adds. "I think he has a couple of Ulster titles."
The question of whether Connolly will start on Sunday is one which will be the subject of forensic analysis this week.
Twelve weeks of competitive inactivity is unlikely to have done much for a player whose form this year had been patchy prior to incurring his ban.
Similarly, Connolly's talent is too rare to simply ignore as a viable option to play for the duration against such a dangerous team.
"He is still a young fella. He is in the prime of his GAA career," Mulligan points out.
"I think he will hit the ground running.
"I think it will give Dublin a lift and give the fans a lift. I don't know if he'll be starting, though.
"Gavin likes to play with his best team at the last and I think he'll come in at the last."
Mulligan's name is synonymous with the Dublin/Tyrone clashes which speckled his county's glory era between 2003 and '08.
Indeed arguably his most famous act as a Tyrone player came against Dublin in 2005.
"I just loved the whole hype, loved the whole playing in Croke Park, the whole Hill 16," he confirms.
"I am a Liverpool fan so when I was younger, it was the Kop to me. If you are a player and you can't get up for a Dublin game, you shouldn't be playing the game.
"It is the best fixture that you can get. You are playing in the capital, it is a class, class fixture.
"But I have seen other players freeze, It is a big daunting place and if you miss a couple of shots in front of the Hill, they will soon let you know about it.
"But that is all a part of it. You either relish it and embrace it or you freeze and luckily enough, I used to relish the challenge.
He was Man of the Match in the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final replay, a week on from scoring that solo wonder goal in the drawn match.
Twelve years on and Mulligan divulges that he was almost hauled ashore just before selling those dummies to two Dublin defenders before burying the ball into the roof of Stephen Cluxton's net at the Canal End.
"I was coming off, and that is how the story goes. I was being substituted," he reveals now.
"Marty Penrose was coming on for me and I think it was Peter (Canavan) who said "nah, keep him on for another five minutes."
"And then I did that..."
What Tyrone will do on Sunday will be the source of intrigue.
Speaking to the Herald two week's back, Ryan McMenamin expressed his belief that Mickey Harte had been preparing a plan to beat Dublin "these past two or three years."
Says Mulligan: "I was chatting to Mickey Harte in Monday at a Club Tyrone thing in London and he can't wait to get at it.
"He's excited. And he certainly is confident going into the game."
A sentiment he shares with his former bleached blonde forward after what Mulligan says he witnessed last month when he went to the Leinster final.
"I saw kinks in their armour," he says. "I'd never seen teams go through Dublin around the middle like that before.
"But Kildare got a couple of chances. Only for Cluxton that day, they'd two goal chances. It could have been massive."
"I think that they'll beat Dublin, so I do."
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