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Should he stay or should he go?

Sport

THE TIES THAT BIND Kilmaine’s Oisin Mullin is pictured before the start of last Saturday’s Mayo Intermediate club football championship semi-final against Mayo Gaels. Pic: John Corless


The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

THE news last week that Oisin Mullin was set to sign a contract with Australian Rules club, Geelong, has seemed inevitable for quite some time. But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept for many Mayo football fans.
Ever since the Kilmaine man impressed scouts at the AFL combine in Dublin in 2019 the threat of losing Mayo football’s brightest prospect to the golden beaches and professional lifestyle of the AFL has lingered.
Covid-19 dampened the flames last year when the 21 year-old looked set to pack his bags; and many hoped it would act as a more long term deterrent. But the draw of a new challenge may be just too great for the current Young Footballer of the Year.
It’s a feeling that also engulfed the county back in 2007 when another Mayo star-in-the-making, Pearce Hanley from Ballaghaderreen, packed his bags to embark on what would turn out to be one of the most successful Irish AFL careers in history.
I never really got to see Hanley play Gaelic football, but I’ve read and heard enough to know what might have been had he chosen to stay with Ballagh’ and the Green and Red.
Yet the potential loss of Oisin Mullin will be felt even more keenly given what he has managed to achieve at such a fledgling stage in his Mayo career.
And as much I don’t want him to leave — for completely selfish reasons — I think he’s absolutely dead right to take the chance.
Put yourself in his pink boots and it’s an opportunity too great to turn down.
He’s young and adventurous, blessed with freak athleticism that seems ready-made for the requirements of the AFL, and he will be able to experience pastures new while getting paid to play sport professionally. What’s not to like?
They’re the obvious pull factors that the naked eye can see. In Mullin’s head he probably possesses much deeper motivations to try and make a career in a new sport, challenging himself to the very maximum of his ability.
He’s going to be an absolute monumental loss for Mayo and his club, Kilmaine. And you can only imagine it’s a decision that he did not make lightly. A burden probably too heavy for a young man with his whole life ahead of him to make.
Not to mention the distraction he has had to try and avoid late last week as he and his club prepared for a County Intermediate semi-final on Saturday. It can’t have been easy turning up to club training on Thursday or Friday night after the news broke on the 42.ie.
It would have been even more difficult having to turn up to the game and face the inquisition from every person afterwards. Or knowing his family were on the sidelines fielding impromptu media scrums every corner they turned.
Although if anyone is able to handle it, it’s probably Oisin Mullin. He’s as cool a character in person as much as his long hair, sallow skin and childish grin suggests. You have to be somewhat of a carefree spirit and able to deal with high pressure situations give what he has done in his short Mayo senior career.

Positive reaction
THE first time I ever dealt with him was back in 2018 in the aftermath of the Mayo U-20s Connacht title success, a game where Oisin suffered a serious shoulder injury and had to be stretchered off. I rang him to do a piece ahead of the All-Ireland Final in which he’d been sidelined and at the time he was coaching at a Cúl Camp, so he rang me back afterwards.
We chatted away and had the craic about his trip to the hospital and being so disorientated from ‘the green whistle’ that he hadn’t a clue where he was when he came around.
He was as easy-going and care free back then as he is now, although he is a bit more shrewd in his media dealings these days!
The vast majority of commentary I’ve heard, and comments I’ve read  on social media, have been positive about to the idea of Oisin making the move to the Geelong Cats.
It’s not the first time a young lad has left the West of Ireland in search of a greater life in the Southern Hemisphere. Just the significance of the variables are much greater here.
But, of course, there will also be some negativity shown towards the decision if he decides to sign on the dotted line, some of it being resentment borne out of frustration.
Some people will be wondering as to how and why Mayo GAA couldn’t keep one of their most prized assets on these shores.
‘Could Elverys not give him a big job like the Tyrone boys did with Cathal McShane?’ they’ll vent. ‘Or Portwest? Sure didn’t he work there for the summer’.
Some people may question his allegiance to Gaelic Games and his ultimate debt they feel he owes to his club and county, and those that put time and effort into his making.
Those are obvious questions some people will ask before proudly stating, with their chests puffed out and shoulders back, that they ‘wouldn’t feel right doing it’.
But those people won’t ever get this opportunity of a lifetime.
And that’s what this is – an opportunity so great that only a chosen few will ever get to experience it. One that you’ll regret taking at some stage in your life when you’re older, washed up, and maybe down on your luck with a fondness for the high stool and telling anyone who’d listen what might have been.
To live and breathe a professional sporting lifestyle is a dream most club footballers have had more than once. As a 28 year-old ‘below average’ club footballer myself, I’d pack my bags and leave so fast I’d forget to water my plants if the opportunity arose tomorrow morning.
If Mayo had won the All-Ireland last September, maybe it might have been enough encouragement to keep Oisin Mullin away from the claws of the professional game.
But the Celtic Cross never arrived. And who is to say if it ever will or won’t? He’s only 21 years-old, if the move goes ahead, it might not work out. The statistics are there to suggest that making a life of it Down Under is extremely difficult.
With Oisin Mullin though, I think that’s unlikely. If he can handle the personal side of the move and the homesickness that might follow, he could be the best Irish export ever.
The Aussies don’t know what they could be getting their hands on.
But for the moment all we can do is watch this space. And wish Oisin all the best, whatever he decides to do.

3011 MPU

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