RUNAWAY SUCCESS Oisín Mullin celebrates after scoring a goal for Mayo against Kildare during their All-Ireland SFC match at Croke Park last June. Pic: Sportsfile
It’s hard to argue with Oisín Mullin’s decision to go to Australia
ANYONE in Mayo looking at Oisín Mullin’s decision to take the plunge and finally sign on the dotted line with Geelong will know how it is a big setback for the Mayo senior football team.
But if they’re being fair about it, they will also appreciate they cannot begrudge Mullin his shot. It’s a wonderful opportunity for such a talented sportsman.
While inter-county GAA has become very all consuming for players in the past decade or so, ultimately it remains a hobby and the opportunity that Aussie Rules presents in terms of the potential for a professional career that could set you up for life is a huge attraction.
Anyone who went to Australia for a year – or longer – will appreciate just how much a draw it is to go there.
There’s sun and fun in equal measure. And unlike most Irish backpackers who must find (often hard got) work on sites or offices to keep themselves ticking over financially, Mullin is set up with not just a job, but the life of a professional sportsman.
Sure, the salary of a category B rookie may not make him rich, but most people with any bit of wanderlust in them in their early 20s could only dream of such an opportunity.
And that’s before you consider the doors it can open for a very lucrative long-term career in the top team in the number one sport in sports-mad Melbourne.
It must be said that the odds are not in Mullin’s favour in terms of making it in the long-run. For every Pearse Hanley, Zac Tuohy and Tadhg Kennelly, there’s countless others who return home after a year or two.
But so what if Oisín Mullin’s stay is not a long one?
Plenty of Irish people have went over to England to try to forge a soccer career in their teens. The percentage of those who make it are slim. Those who don’t come back often without having completed a Leaving Cert and some struggle.
But those who head to Oz tend to do so after their Leaving Cert and with the subsequent greater life experience. Some even go after college. If it doesn’t work out, they come home having lived a professional life in one of the most desirable countries to live in the world. If that’s failure, sign me right up!
And, of course, Mayo football will be only too glad to welcome back a generational player with open arms if that happens.
BUT what of his loss right now?
There is no getting away from the reality that it’s a huge setback to Kevin McStay’s plans. With Lee Keegan still to confirm his intentions for 2023, McStay could be looking at losing two of his best defenders before a single ball is kicked.
Mullin always appeared set to break through to the Mayo senior team. His star was shining at underage, both with Mayo academy teams and Ballinrobe Community School, whom he won an All-Ireland B Colleges title with in 2017.
He broke through with the Mayo seniors in 2020 and finished the season with All Star and Young Footballer of the Year accolades.
It was clear he was a rare talent.
Pace and power to burn, he is an extremely dynamic defender.
Where his best position was and where Mayo needed him most did not often align. He found himself in the full-back line at times. It felt like caging a cheetah but, just like Lee Keegan playing alongside him in the last line of defence, you could understand James Horan doing so with a dearth of top-level options in that line.
What we would have given for Mullin to be breaking into the Mayo team five years previously where he would have had much more license for front-foot football in the half-back line or even midfield.
Playing at full-back did not always suit him as the positional sense top-level number threes develop over years was not something anyone like Mullin coming in to fight fires could acquire rapidly.
But we only needed to see how good a job he did on David Clifford in this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final to see just how big a loss he will be.
Clifford scored two marks off Mullin and, while the Footballer of the Year scored a superb goal, it ought to be remembered it was not Mullin who was picking him up in that attack.
So, effectively, he kept him scoreless from play even if we could argue ‘marks’ are a first cousin of points from play.
Who have Mayo now who could do a similar job on Clifford and his ilk?
The plain truth is nobody in the league of Oisín Mullin.