The news that broke this morning about the likely impending departure for Australia and the AFL of Oisín Mullin is a bad blow for the county’s football team. An All-Star and Young Footballer of the Year in his debut season at inter-county level in 2020, the Kilmaine player quickly established himself as one of our most important performers.
The news that Oisín is soon set to be offered a rookie contract by AFL club Geelong was broken by The 42 this morning (here). Since then, the story has been all over the media today, including on RTÉ, Irish Independent, Irish Mirror, Irish Examiner.
The possibility that Oisín would one day up sticks and head for Australia has been a worry for Mayo fans for as long as he’s been playing for the county. Stories about the Aussies tracking him were widespread early in 2020, when Oisín was putting in a series of impressive performances for us in the full back line, and there was a sense of inevitability then that one day these stories would be confirmed.
When Rob and I sat down with James Horan for the podcast back in February 2020, I put that very question about Oisín’s future to the Mayo manager. His rather Delphic response then was that the Kilmaine starlet was fully committed to Mayo for the year, though that, of course, only served to heighten worries about the follwowing year.
In the event, of course, Covid intervened, upturning all manner of plans all over the globe. From our selfish perspective, it meant Oisín was still with us for the 2021 season but today’s news stories would appear to confirm that he won’t be around for 2022. In truth, he could well have played his final match in the Green and Red.
From Oisín’s perspective, the chance to play a professional sport is clearly too good an opportunity to pass up. Few can, in truth, quibble with his apparent decision to go – who wouldn’t in his position? All any right-thinking Mayo supporter can do is thank him for the significant contribution he made to the county in his time here and wish him all the best for the future.
Those claiming that something, anything, should have been done – including by Mayo GAA – to keep the player here are, I think, well wide of the mark. Despite the steady creeping professionalism, Gaelic football is still an amateur sport and the professional terms on offer to Oisín in the AFL simply aren’t a factor in our game. No amount of ‘something should have been done’ talk can gainsay that painfully obvious truth.
And it’s not as if we’re uniquely at risk of losing players to Australia either. Promising performers from several counties have headed to Oz down the years, with varying degrees of success, and Oisín is just the latest of these. He is, it’s true, one of the more high profile departures – not since Kerry’s Tommy Walsh, also a winner of the Young Footballer of the Year award, has a player of Oisín’s stature swapped inter-county Gaelic football for the lure of professional terms in the AFL.
Oisín’s departure will undoubtedly weaken us next year. Since the All-Ireland loss to Tyrone, I’ve felt that 2022 was going to be a difficult one for us no matter what – reminded as we will be at every turn that we blew such a glorious opportunity to win Sam – and, shorn of Oisín’s talents, I can’t see that it’s going to be any less difficult.
But that’s not on Oisín. He’s given us two great years and now it would appear that an exciting life opportunity is opening up for him. The best of luck to him as he prepares to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.