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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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From soccer Stateside to rugby for Ireland, Sligo's globetrotting captain gunning for national glory

37-year-old Jacqui Mulligan has had a colourful sporting career.

Jacqui Mulligan's Sligo face Meath on Saturday.
Jacqui Mulligan's Sligo face Meath on Saturday.

YOU COULD SAY that Sligo captain Jacqui Mulligan has pretty much done it all at this stage.

Since making her senior inter-county debut almost two decades ago, the 37-year-old has enjoyed an extremely colourful sporting career.

Gaelic football, rugby and soccer have been the main three. Club, county, province and country — with some time overseas even thrown into the equation.

Her sole focus is on the Yeats county at the minute after a year out, but ahead of their Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 final against Meath on Saturday, it’s rather fitting that we take a trip back through the years and reflect on everything that’s brought her to where she is now.

“It’s been a good sporting career so far,” she laughs, bringing The42 through her journey, from Gaelic football to soccer to rugby, the former the constant through the lot.

The St Farnan’s defender started out with her beloved national sport but from there, doors opened elsewhere.

In 2004, she headed Stateside to the University of West Georgia on a two-and-a-half year soccer scholarship after being scouted in a club game. Understandably, it was an absolutely massive deal and, of course, Mulligan enjoyed every minute of it. 

While she started a PE Teaching course at IT Sligo before she set off on that adventure, her return to home soil brought the conclusion of that in Limerick.

The next sporting chapter soon opened — rugby, which ultimately led to her joining the Ireland Sevens squad.

“I came back and started the 15s in Sligo and from there I would have progressed on to province,” she explains.

“The Sevens basically happened by accident. We did a Sevens tournament, I enjoyed it. There were scouts there and I got picked for the Irish squad. I was with them for a couple of months, it was good.”

Mulligan represented Sligo in the Connacht League and also Galwegians in the AIL, but her heart always well and truly lay with her Gaelic roots. 

Maria Moolick and Jacqui Mulligan Facing Kildare in 2016. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“Back to Gaelic football,” the Mercy College teacher grins. “I’m living in Sligo town and there’s no soccer, there’s no rugby happening in Sligo town now so it’s nearly Gaelic by default.

“I would have always played it even when I was with the Sevens and with the soccer, I would have came back and played Gaelic anyhow. It’s always been the steady one throughout the years.”

She’s provided season upon season of service to Sligo through thick and thin, good days and bad, the highs and the lows; but last year, decided to step away from the panel to put herself first. An opportunity for a career break arose, she grabbed it and off she went on her travels.

“As soon as the club finished, I went off,” she recalls, “the beginning of November… and took a year out from county football.

“I arrived back at the end of August, just in time for club championship, ironically enough!”

The route? Africa — she did a month there — south-east Asia and the islands there, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and up to the northern continent to settle in California for the summer.

The highlight? Well, there were many.

“Lots of highlights, being honest with you. Climbing Kilimanjaro probably was a personal highlight for me. There’s so many different cities… Singapore was a city that I wasn’t expecting to be as amazing as it was.”

The keeping in touch with home? That was most definitely done too.

No matter where she was on the globe, and it could have been anywhere considering she covered quite a bit of ground, Mulligan kept an eye on her county team-mates and how they went in her absence. 

Social media is a great thing after all, with Twitter the main port of call every weekend. And then through championship, the LGFA’s live streaming service was a Godsend.

“Lucky enough, two of Sligo’s games were streamed so I was able to watch them. I was in San Francisco for one, I was in New York for the other so I got to watch both the games.

“It’s brilliant being able to watch it live, you’re not waiting for it to refresh! You nearly don’t appreciate social media until you’re a thousand miles away and you want to connect with your team.”

2019 Lidl Ladies National Football League Finals Captain's Day The Division 1, 2, 3 and 4 league finals are this weekend. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Thankfully, they’re fully connected 24-7 now with the countdown well and truly underway for 4pm on Saturday in Clones.

After a shaky start to their league campaign in the past now, the Yeats women are gunning for the Royals.

Interestingly, their first game was against the same opposition but that fell foul to snow. They started out with a defeat away to Longford instead, before losing to Meath in the re-fixture — a self-admitted ‘terrible game’ — but victory over Down set them on their way.

“Look, every game since then has been a win and we’re grateful to be in a league final,” she adds.

“We were relegated there last year and it was a tough one for the girls that were on board. To be back now in a final and have the opportunity to get up again to Division 2, that’s where we want to be playing football.”

Happy out based in Sligo, donning the black and white and representing St Farnan’s — a small club right beside the ocean where she lines out alongside her two sisters — with distinction, it’s all go. 

There to stay hopefully, she smiles.

But every sports person loves a challenge. And as seen before, Mulligan will happily welcome any golden opportunity with open arms. So it’d be rude not to ask…

AFLW?

“Gosh, you don’t know,” she laughs.

“The two Kelly sisters going, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s great. A great opportunity in fairness. I think it’s great for women’s sport too, just putting it out there.

“Why not?”

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Emma Duffy

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