It’s been well flagged in recent weeks but last night’s official confirmation that Oisín Mullin is departing for Australia shortly to take up a professional AFL contract with Geelong is nonetheless a significant blow for the county ahead of next year’s inter-county campaign.
At a personal level, it’s only right to wish Oisín well. We’re all given only one life to lead and we’re all entitled to follow our dreams, wherever they may take us. Oisín has decided – following his decision not to go this time last year when the option was also there to do so – to head for Melbourne and the AFL and, from the comments posted here on the blog since the news broke last night, it’s obvious he’s going with plenty of good wishes from Mayo supporters. As is right and proper.
It’s tempting to make comparisons with Pearse Hanley’s departure back in 2007 but, as has also been pointed out already by contributors here, that comparison isn’t fully accurate. Pearse left at a younger age, having played just two qualifier matches at Senior level for us. Oisín, by contrast, played three full years at Senior level for us and appeared in two All-Ireland finals in that time.
Looking back on those three years, it was his breakout year in 2020 – a season like no other, greatly interrupted by Covid – that proved his best in a Mayo jersey. He burst onto the scene at the start of that year as a fully-formed talent, immediately establishing himself as a key performer for us, despite his tender years. It was no surprise that he ended that year with an All-Star and the Young Footballer of the Year award. For good measure, he won the YFOTY award again in 2021.
2021 and 2022 were, in large part, years in which Oisín was blighted by injury. Despite this, however, he still made a significant contribution to the cause over the two seasons, evidenced by that second YFOTY award last year.
The news of Oisín’s departure is definitely an early development that Kevin McStay and his management team could have done without. The ongoing doubt about Lee Keegan’s availability for next year doesn’t help either, even if it’s right that Lee is given all the time he needs to decide how he’s fixed for 2023. Indeed, if ever a player deserves time and space to make such a decision, it’s Lee.
Whatever Lee eventually decides to do, Oisín’s departure creates a gap in the ranks, one that needs to be filled by one of the emerging talents we have in the backline. Clearly, we’ve no like-for-like replacement – which is why losing a player as talented as Oisín is such a blow – but we’re not bereft of alternative options at the back either.
The news that Oisín won’t be with the county team next year is a blow for us, one we could definitely have done without as we seek to re-establish ourselves as serious contenders for national honours. Ultimately, though, it’s one we have to live with as another year of inter-county action approaches.