Tyrone legend Owen Mulligan has labelled parts of Mickey Harte’s team selection ‘criminal’ after their Ulster SFC defeat at the weekend.
The defending Ulster champions lost out to Monaghan in Sunday’s quarter final in Omagh, an Mulligan has questioned the wisdom of Harte’s decision to select three injured players for the match.
Speaking to Paddy Power News, the three-time All-Ireland winner argued that picking all of of Colm Kavanagh, Tiernan McCann and Lee Brennan was an error of judgement and one which played right into Monaghan’s hands:
“What was criminal from Harte was that he started three injured players Cavanagh, Brennan and McCann. None of them made an impact and they were taken off early. When you’re playing a quality side at this intensity you can’t expect to carry anyone with an injury. Surely Harte knows this?
“It gave Monaghan that bit more confidence to see these lads come off.”
Mulliagan, who played under Harte so has fist-hand experience of how ruthless the manager can be, expressed sympathy with Ronan O’Neill. O’Neill faced the indignity of being substituted despite coming on as a sub himself – a decision that he reacted angrily to – and Mulligan thinks that Harte showed him a lack of respect by taking him off in that manner:
“I feel sorry for Ronan O’Neill. We all know Mickey Harte is ruthless, and I know it better than anyone. He really doesn’t care who you are, if you’re not performing, you’re off. Also, Ronan’s an Omagh man and that’s his home ground which would sting him even more. I thought it showed a lack of respect to him if I’m honest.
“It looked ridiculous when he threw the gloves. Harte won’t take actions like that lightly, but at the same time he won’t care. It happened to me in my first year at senior, it was a f**king nightmare before Mickey came in. You want the ground to swallow you up when it happens in front of so many people. The leaders need to step in and speak with him (O’Neill).
“If the result went for Tyrone it wouldn’t have been talked about but it’s a big topic. I really hope Ronan doesn’t throw up the head because he’s a top-class player.
“At the end of the day Harte’s a winner, and unfortunately Ronan got the shepherd’s crook early on. But the man is ruthless.”
Looking past Tyrone, Mulligan paid tribute to Monaghan’s Conor McManus. The forward took the game by the scruff of the neck – particularly in the closing stages – and Mulligan sees him as one of the best in the country at what he does:
“In the last 5 minutes when a team needs a man to step up and there’s no bigger leader than McManus. The point he scored was ridiculous, absolutely insane and one of the best I’ve ever seen.
“He’s the best forward in the country, and I would gladly part with my money to watch him play anywhere.”
Owen Mulligan is one of a select group of high profile sports personalities, who feature as regular columnists with Paddy Power News. For more, see news.paddypower.com