Mulligan Healthy and Raring to Go for Sligo

In the lead into the Connacht Final against Leitrim Jacqui Mulligan writes about her come back from injury and looking forward to fighting for her starting place in the coming final.

24 January 2015; Jacqui Mulligan, Sligo, in attendance at the Tesco HomeGrown Ladies Football National League Connacht launch. Prominade, Salthill, Co. Galway. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

Ralph Waldo Emerson claims “Life is not always about the Destination, but the Journey”. This special journey kick-started in mid-April, when the opportunity came to pull back on the black and white jersey during the final hour of the Lidl Division 2 campaign for Sligo Ladies. Having won Division 3 League last May in Parnell Park, 2016 was bringing a new journey for all those involved. The chance to compete against Senior teams week in week out in the depths of a dreary Spring. The opportunity to face new teams and individuals to challenge themselves against the opposing number.

After retirements, changes in personnel and injuries the entire campaign hung on the ultimate hour against Meath in mid-April. Meath have strong tradition in both men’s and ladies game of never say die attitude so we were under no illusions of the efforts needed to overcome a side which had inflicted a 6 point win in the first round of the league campaign.

On Sunday morning the team gathered and the focus began. The fast paced warm up, the final few words led the team to the battleground. Crossing that line of no return, no backing down to Division III. Relentless in every tackle, in every attack it had to come from players 1-15 and to the subs who got the call.

Looking on I was in awe at the speed of the game, the big hits. But the itchy feet to cross that whitewashed line was to the forefront. Then the call came. The excitement to get the warm up gear off, grab that white slip of paper and go help fight the cause.

It was seven months since I had kicked an O’Neills, lonely days & nights working on relieving that aching pain that I carried through all of last year’s championship. Numerous trips to Dublin to the pain clinic and to Eamon O’ Muircheartaigh, the talented practitioner who got me back on my feet. Not forgetting the ever talented Sarah Casserley who pin pointed the cause of all evil.

The scoreboard swayed to and fro until the last five minutes. When Katie Walsh replicated that Parnell Park point the deal was sealed. The final whistle blew and the joy on the faces of my fellow team mates finalised it’s always worth the fight. The team song blared out in the dressing room, job done!!

As lionising as the story instigates the league campaign is the past, Championship is the present with the prospect of pulling on the black jersey and play ball with the Sligo crest on your heart. Inside all players approaching a game is the chance to bring their A game to the fore. Championship football ignites all competitions, and in Connacht there is the uniqueness of just three teams in the province vying for the coveted Intermediate title.

Unfortunately Sligo’s A game never hit the exit doors from the dressing room. We sank in the trough of our opening round of the TG4 Intermediate Championship. Our opponents Roscommon managed to stay one step ahead of us. From the throw- in, it was evident Roscommon were in championship mode. Defending in packs and breaking from back line with support on both shoulders as they drove forward. They were more than worthy of their lead at half time.

We couldn’t compete, our sluggish start left us fighting and the uphill battle was enhanced after our ill-discipline with two sin bins before the break. This left us with a huge mountain to climb. Half time called for some soul searching. A dressing room can be an eventful place but the only thing that can be won in there is an argument!! It was time to do our talking on the pitch.

The second half we began to compete; we got in the tackles and started to support each other. We hadn’t become a bad team overnight but we did become a team who lacked focus and purpose in the opening thirty minutes in Ballinlough that day. In the closing ten minutes we managed to claw our way back to a 4 point deficit. But Roscommon kicked on and were the deserving winners on that day.

We lacked the performance and the drawing board reflected home truths as we returned to the training field that week. We had two weeks to revive the championship before we faced Leitrim in the next round.

Fixture announced, Leitrim at home in Tourlestrane, home to our manager Paddy Henry, the man who has guided Sligo LGFA to two National Titles, league and championship. Football is to die for and in his backyard we brought this attitude to the forefront.  Goals win games and within thirty minutes there were five goals, but it was Leitrim with the goal advantage and also leading at half time. However, Leitrim fell victim to two sin bins at the beginning of the second half thus allowing our numerical advantage and discipline to crank up the revival. Playing with two extra players allowed Sligo to push on and pop over a few scores while also defending with the extra players Leitrim tried their hardest but similar to Sligo a fortnight ago the comeback was too little too late. The final whistle brought scenes of joy for the entire community of players, management and supporters. Sligo was back in the hunt. With all teams wining one game it came down to the nail biting draw.

10:45pm Beep Beep. You have one new Facebook Notification. The anticipation… Slide, open, B.I.N.G.O!!! It reads “Draw Result: Sligo have a bye into the final on July”.

The heart beats a little faster..

Can this actually be true, pause, read it again? Oh bless yes it is real. Sligo has come out of the hat. On 3rd July we will contest a Connacht final. I skipped into training that week, it’s all systems go. The sun has arrived, the ground has hardened. It’s time for mouldies and to discard the under armour. Inside the circle it’s golden. From that moment we have eight weeks to prepare for McHale Park. One week later we know it’s Leitrim that will be the opposition. A team we played four times last year, our geographical neighbours who possess some of the country’s most talented players. Nothing is ever easy against this opposition, not in 2016 and not for the last sixteen years that I’ve been playing senior football for Sligo.

But as I glance over my shoulder at training this week and see Mary Cullen, Sligo’s Olympic hopeful do laps around the field I’m happy I am inside the fence. The team may have its up’s and down’s but there are always fourteen player when you cross that white line. We are a family of players who will have the honour to be handed the Black & White jersey on game day. But it is imperative to note that it will never be ours, we are passing through, same as our predecessors. Just like the players before us we will pass the jersey to the next generation. Therefore when we do get the opportunity to put it on come 3rd July, beneath that crest must be an honest performance with 100% effort.


As I sign off I leave you with Aerosmith’s:

“Life’s a journey not a destination
And I just can’t tell just what tomorrow (3rd July) brings”

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