The Cookstown forward quit the Tyrone panel two weeks ago in frustration at a lack of game time before returning to the fold — but played no part in the round four qualifier win against Armagh last weekend.
“If Tyrone are going to progress to All-Ireland semi-finals or a final I still think he is going to be very important to them,” said Canavan. “Croke Park seems to bring the best out in him.”
Mulligan isn’t the only ‘veteran’ to have warmed the bench of late. Others, including Brian Dooher, Enda McGinley and Davy Harte, have had to bide their time as Mickey Harte has shuffled his deck since losing to Donegal in Ulster.
The men taking their places are by no means babes in the woods but the likes of Peter Harte and Mark Donnelly have accepted leading roles in the county’s renaissance that has been built on victories against Longford and Armagh.
“It was going to have to happen because Brian Dooher can’t go on forever, Kevin Hughes can’t go on .....
“Mickey has serious options. These younger men have to be blooded and it’s better that they are blooded in twos and threes rather than just bringing in seven or eight lads at the one time.”
The net result has been all positive with Tyrone managing to iron out many of their kinks through the qualifiers and, as Canavan also alluded to, they have an encouraging history when it comes to the qualifiers.
Their last two All-Ireland wins, in 2005 and 2008, were claimed via the back door and Canavan offered a popular opinion in suggesting that provincial titles these past two years were ultimately counter-productive in that the team peaked too soon.
Their opponents this week would squirm at the thought of a provincial title being anything but a positive and the signals emanating from Roscommon this week have been worrying to say the least.
Manager Fergal O’Donnell was lamenting his side’s detour through the back door within half an hour of their Connacht final loss to Mayo and he has been painting similarly bleak pictures about his side’s chances in recent days.
But Canavan has said Tyrone will not take the challenge lightly.
“The only danger now is that the general public are talking about a Tyrone-Dublin All-Ireland quarter-final and the Tyrone players would not want to fall into that trap because it’s Roscommon they are playing and they are very much a team on the up.”