Harte plays down Mulligan's 'self-imposed' absence

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has issued his first public comments on Owen Mulligan's short absence from the panel last week.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has issued his first public comments on Owen Mulligan's short absence from the panel last week.

Mulligan missed county training last week amid reports that he had grown frustrated at his lack of game-time in this year's Championship.

But the Cookstown native linked back up with the Red Hands squad on Tuesday evening, following some input from his club colleagues and a discussion with Harte himself.

Writing in his eircom SportsHub blog, Harte said: "(The Owen Mulligan thing) was something that was overhyped because it was Owen.

"Many times players become disillusioned with the pressures of playing at that level. It has happened many times but because it was Owen Mulligan it attracts attention.

"I was always confident it was just a storm in a teacup and everybody is delighted to have him back. He is such a quality player and finisher and he has that experience and flamboyance that's good to have around a team."

Mulligan has struggled to make an impact for Tyrone this season, with Martin Penrose, Mark Donnelly and recent debutant Kyle Coney coming to the fore in attack.

The 30-year-old is still a player capable of turning a game, the sort of instinctive forward who could revel in the drama of tonight's All-Ireland SFC qualifier clash with Armagh.

There is huge interest in this Omagh showdown between the two counties that have exclusively shared the Ulster SFC title between 1999 and 2010.

Harte insisted: "We are confident that we are capable of going through. We are not being presumptuous but we believe we have a decent side and that we are good enough to win.

"We have to play to the best of ability to achieve that. There is no way out. We either do that and progress or we are history for another year. It is too early to be history.

"While there may have been some transition in the Armagh team, they still have the quality that brought them to the heights in the 2000s. We have more of our players from that era but we have quite a few new faces as well.

"Some have painted it as one team is in transition while the other is hanging on by their fingernails to their elder statesmen but I think that is a bit of a misrepresentation. We have a decent mix of experience and youth and I think our team is still formidable."

Harte has made four changes to the team that beat Longford in the last round of the qualifiers. He also has plenty of ammunition in reserve, with Mulligan, Justin McMahon, Enda McGinley and two-time All-Ireland winning captain Brian Dooher featuring on a experience-laden bench.

However, former Footballer of the Year Stephen O'Neill aggravated an injury in training and misses out. Harte said that the unavailability of the Clann na nGael clubman is 'a very big loss.'

"Stephen has suffered so many injuries over the last few years we wouldn't expect him to be delivering the quality he was in 2005 but he still has it in his armoury, so to be able to call on him is always a bonus to us.

"He has a hamstring injury, something he has had trouble with throughout his career but he suffered a setback on Saturday and is facing at least three weeks out.

"People who know where the goals are, who can kick with both feet, who are very driven, are not that plentiful so it is a very big loss.

"We just have to hope he can get over it and that we will still be around (in the Championship) when he does."

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