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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 21 January, 2019

Son of Dublin legend, part of St Vincent's club glories and starting out with Donegal

Nathan Mullins has been a notable addition to the Donegal ranks this spring.

pjimage (1) St Vincent's Nathan Mullins has embarked on a career with Donegal. Source: INPHO

THE FIRST LEAGUE outing for Nathan Mullins in Donegal colours did not unfold pleasantly.

By the 20th minute of their late January encounter against Kerry, Mullins was heading for the sideline in Fitzgerald Stadium after being shown a red card.

“Obviously I felt at fault then that we lost and was suspended then for the Galway game,” recalls the 27-year-old.

“But a massive learning curve, (it was a) silly bit of red mist. I know there was a lot of stuff going on off the ball but I have to expect that.

“You just can’t get away with stuff like that at inter-county level where you might do in a club game. I just have to put that behind me now but it was very silly on my part.”

Paddy Neilan shows Nathan Mullins a red card Referee Paddy Neilan dismisses Nathan Mullins. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

He sat out the narrow loss to Galway before stepping onto the big stage against Dublin in Croke Park. Again his involvement was ended prematurely, this time withdrawn as a sub with the game 27 minutes old.

“Look it didn’t go to plan – obviously the management felt I wasn’t up to the challenge against (Brian) Fenton and I got taken off earlier than I would have expected.

“Declan (Bonner) is the manager and whether I agree or disagree with the decision it happened on the night. It was a tough one to take, to be taken off after 20 minutes in Croke Park against Dublin. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

“The management are very approachable. Of course I would have had a chat with Declan afterwards and there are no issues there whatsoever. This is just a challenge, I knew it was going to be tough, (I) just have to dust myself off and get on with it.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, just get back training and I’m available for selection for the next day.”

The 19th Annual KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge Launch Nathan Mullins at the launch of the 19th annual KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge. Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

Mullins was sprung from the bench late on as Donegal got up and running with a win over Kildare at the end of last month and is now priming himself for a Saturday night battle with Tyrone in Omagh.

It’s been an eventful start to his senior career in the north-west, lining out for the county where he lived for the first 11 years of his life.

Mullins grew up in Carndonagh, where his father Brian was the principal of the local community school. When he moved back to Dublin, he began to step out on the football arena that Brian had adorned at club level with St Vincent’s.

Then he graduated to the Dublin ranks, initially part of Jim Gavin’s U21 squad in 2010 but not involved in their subsequent All-Ireland title win.

Dublin players celebrate at the end of the gam Dublin players celebrating their 2010 All-Ireland U21 final victory. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The Donegal links were never severed though. Dublin beat Donegal in that final in 2010 and intriguingly the following year saw Mullins involved at U21 level with the county where he grew up.

It has taken time for him to be drafted in to the Donegal senior setup.

“To be honest, I had a couple of bad years with injuries and stuff like that. The challenge for me was always to be in the starting 15 and a leading member of the team with Vincent’s.

“Luckily I did the hard work and had two or three good consecutive years at club level and the next challenge that arose then was Donegal – Declan got in touch with me.

“There was always a bit of contact over the years with Donegal but I would have felt, and obviously they felt at the time, that I wouldn’t have been up to that level.

“Luckily I know a lot of the lads from growing up there and you kind of cross paths with people playing football and stuff like that. Vincent’s would have always had a good link with DCU so I would have known a lot of lads in DCU as well that went to college there.

“I was welcomed with open arms and it was great to get that off them. Growing up in Donegal and playing with Carndonagh I obviously always wanted to play with Donegal.

Nathan Mullins Nathan Mullins before Donegal's Dr McKenna Cup clash with Monaghan in early January. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

“My friends were Donegal followers and there was a bit of slagging going on because my father was manager of Derry at the time, there would always have been a bit of rivalry there.

“Then obviously circumstances changed, we moved back to Dublin and from there it was just about trying to be successful with St Vincent’s and when this challenge arose I was happy to proceed with it.”

St Vincent’s have provided a launchpad for him to try his hand at the inter-county game. He toasted another county final success last October on a night that began with the midfielder on the receiving end of a shuddering hit from James McCarthy.

Source: Official Dublin GAA/YouTube

“I just remember Shane Carthy gave me a poor pass and I took a bad hit,” laughs Mullins.

“Again, there was no issue there at all with James.

“James talked to me after. I would be friendly with James. He is a great lad. He is someone whose game I watch very closely and try to implement a lot of the characteristics of his game into my game as well.

“If I hit someone like that I would be proud of it. It was a great hit. There was no malice in it. Exactly what I would have expected playing against James and playing against Ballymun.

“I just got up, had to get my head together on the sideline, came back on. It would have taken a lot more to keep me out of that game, Ballymun, Championship final, there was no way I was going off that pitch unless I had to.”

Success was shared with his father Brian, the manager as St Vincent’s claimed a fourth Dublin senior crown in five years.

Brian Mullins celebrates at the final whistle Brian Mullins celebrates St Vincent's Dublin county senior final victory last October. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We have a very good relationship when it comes to football. We probably don’t talk about much else but he is good at just once we drive through those gates in Vincent’s it’s not father and son relationship, it’s manager and player.

“And he treats me exactly the way he treats anyone else in the squad. He only came in maybe last April or Mayo I suppose by the time we lost to Slaughtneil and the club had brought someone else in,

“He is looking forward to implementing his full pre season before we get the league and championship underway with the club.”

Mullins trains in IT Blanchardstown with a group of other Donegal players based in the capital and then once a week they make the long trek to the north-west. The travelling will increase as the season progresses and the demands grow.

But he is pleased with this new chapter in his sporting career.

“(I’m) loving it. Obviously it’s a step up from St Vincent’s but that was always going to be the challenge, to make the step up to county football. I’m enjoying it, it’s going great so I’m loving every minute of it.”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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