Charlestown’s Anthony Mulligan is not your typical club footballer
HE is certainly a man of many talents and contradictions but there is also much more to Charlestown footballer Anthony Mulligan than meets the eye.
Here’s what you may know already: he’s 28 years old and one of the best-known club players in the county. During his ten year career with the East Mayo club he’s won County Senior and Intermediate Championship medals and broken plenty of hearts along the way.
Many of them, he admits himself, belonging to members of Charlestown GAA club.
During his career so far Mulligan has developed a reputation for being unpredictable, supremely talented, mercurial, inconsistent, and pretty much unmarkable when the mood takes him.
Last December he was named The Mayo News Intermediate ‘Player of the Year’ after helping to lead Charlestown back to the senior ranks after a brief hiatus.
His outstanding form at full-forward has led to recent enquiries from the Mayo senior management about his availability to try out for the county squad. However, a hamstring problem means that trial will have to wait for another day.
“I’m dying to play for Mayo,” he conceded. “It was a goal of mine at the start of last year and if I could add anything at all it would be great.”
Right now, however, his only focus is on next Sunday’s All-Ireland club championship semi-final against Tyrone champions Cookstown. Beyond that, he knows Croke Park is somewhere in the distance. Ready and waiting to host the February 9 showpiece.
“I think about it now and again,” he admitted to The Mayo News last week. “You’d get excited just thinking about it but I’m just concentrating on next Sunday now.
“My first County Final in 2007 passed me by because I was thinking about it too much. The same thing happened in the 2009 Connacht club final. I made no impact. So it’s important to stay relaxed.”
Mulligan made a conscious effort at the start of last year to change his ways when it came to playing football. He decided that his laid-back, lackadaisical approach was holding him back.
Sure, he could dominate run-of-the-mill club games without over-exerting himself but, when push came to shove on the big days, it just wasn’t happening for him.
“At the beginning of last year I sat down with my brother Alan, Enda Casey, and a friend of mine, Liam Breheny, and I decided that I was going to try and stand up, to be one of the leaders, this season.
“Liam got me running up hills at Knock Airport a few times a week. Enda is so focused, a real leader, and he told me that Charlestown were going back senior, and that we are going to be in Croke Park in 2013. He’s been a huge driving force behind all this and he encouraged me to buy in.
“It was time to get serious about football. I liked to enjoy myself, to go out with my mates. “Football is a big commitment and I tried to focus in completely on it this year.
“In the past I never really gave it 100 per cent and I was just getting by in games, but when it came to big games I was found out.”
Being relegated from the Senior Championship just two years after winning the Moclair Cup also hit Mulligan and the Charlestown GAA community hard. It made him think long and hard about making the most of his ability.
“It was devastating to go down last year. That was a huge kick in the arse.
“When you’re out playing games, playing well, there’s no better feeling. I’m confident when I’m on the ball, I believe I have the ability to make something happen.”
IT’S a pretty similar story off-the-field for the affable son of Anthony and the late Bernie Mulligan, who passed away in 2004.
His day job is with Signs Express, a Sligo based company run by Mayo native Mick O’Hara (“It keeps my mind occupied, which is important”), but he has also carved out quite a reputation as an actor, scriptwriter and all-round performer in recent years courtesy of his appearances on You Tube alongside his brother, Alan, and a range of friends and team-mates.
Almost 39,000 people have watched the video for ‘It’s Our Time’, an homage to the Republic of Ireland’s qualification for last summer’s European Soccer Championships which features the Charlestown forward driving a camper-van that contains his ‘wing man’ Ollie Conway and Enda Casey.
Honest, and there’s more.
“My brother Alan is big into it and he’s the ideas man. It all started when we entered a film in a Film Festival in Monaghan a few years ago. We had to make it in 48 hours and write a song too.
“We’ve made two other short films as well, ‘I Am Spoon’ and ‘Trust’ and entered them in festivals.
“We’ve also just written a script for a comedy feature film and are hoping to get funding for it. Alan is very driven and pushes me to do it a lot of the time. For me it’s a hobby, and something I really enjoy.”
When he’s not making films, working on scripts or playing football, he goes swimming in Westport or Claremorris, or spends time with his girlfriend, Kate, who works in Dublin.
His relationship with his father and his siblings is also something very close to his heart.
“Before every game I call into the shop and shake dad’s hand,” he said. “It’s just a thing we do. All my family are flying back for the semi-final, expect my sister, Joanne, who’s in New Zealand. Paul [his brother, a former Charlestown wing-forward] is coming back from England too.
“It would be nice to have ‘Badger’ [Paul] with me on the team if we make it to Croke Park but maybe it’s something to have over him too,” laughed Anthony.
Back in the day, the Mulligan brothers would share a Domino’s pizza the night before a big Charlestown game. Now Anthony and Joey Owens link up with Enda Casey to “load up on pasta”.
“I try not to do anything too daft,” he smiled. “Maybe lock myself in my room!”
It’s been quite a whirlwind journey over the last few months for the quietly-spoken Mulligan.
He promised himself that 2012 would be different and, so far, so good.
“Hopefully the highlight is yet to come but, I suppose, Enda lifting the cup after the County Final stands out. And winning the Connacht title in my mother’s home county was special too. It meant a lot to me.”
Time flies when you’re shooting the breeze with the star of short films like ‘I Am Spoon’ and ‘Trust’, but it’s impossible not to wonder what it would mean to him to run out at Croke Park with the ‘random’ collection of friends and team-mates he shares his life with.
“It’s hard to find words. . I might never, ever get another chance to play there. It would mean everything to me.”
It is now just sixty minutes away.
All-Ireland Club IFC Semi-Final
Charlestown v Cookstown
Sunday, January 27
Longford at 2pm