Murphy insists Donegal can bounce back after break
HE HAD a penalty saved when arch-rivals Tyrone took first blood in their McKenna Cup opener last weekend, but Michael Murphy says Donegal are hell-bent on getting their league campaign off to a good start.
Manager Jim McGuinness came in for some criticism last year for giving so little credence to the Allianz League as his side were relegated to Division 2.
But Murphy feels that situation was forced upon McGuinness in the last two years due to a lack of numbers and that Donegal's situation is very different this season, which is why their emphasis is now firmly back on doing well in the league.
"In the last couple of years our hands were kind of tied in the McKenna Cup and the league -- we weren't really able to put out our strongest players due to injuries and players resting up after long seasons previously," Murphy said.
Monaghan foiled Donegal's bid for a third Ulster title in a row last summer and the 2012 All-Ireland champions then bowed out of the championship to Mayo in early August to end their season a lot earlier than many expected.
But Murphy argues that the early exit has allowed them come back sharper in the new year.
"The break we've had has given players an opportunity to get back into training and get into shape and, as a result, we'll hopefully have those players for the remainder of the McKenna Cup and moving into the National League and be able to hit the ground running," he said.
"We're looking around at all the teams in our group and know it's going to be a very competitive National League but hopefully that will stand us in good stead come the championship."
This year's tough Division 2 includes Laois, Galway, Meath, Down, Armagh, Louth and Monaghan.
"It was just brilliant to get back into games," Murphy added of last weekend's 0-13 to 1-7 defeat in Letterkenny, when Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan made an eye-catching comeback from his long injury lay-off by saving Murphy's penalty and scoring three frees.
"There were plenty of cobwebs to brush off but it was nice to get out there and it was a good game too," added Murphy.
"Tyrone came with a lot of new faces and put it up to us. They pulled away in the last 15 minutes when we failed big time, but that's understandable enough at this time of year. It was our first match back and it's good that the games are coming thick and fast now.
"Tyrone have always taken it (McKenna Cup) very seriously," he noted. "You only need to look at their record in it, and it has shown when they go into the league and championship.
"They have stronger squads to pick from and keep churning out quality players."
Others may be panicking a bit about the introduction of black cards but Murphy says it won't be affecting how Donegal go into tackles, which was one of their trademarks in 2012.
"You can't really be holding back on that, you want to try and win the ball back by whatever means necessary," he said.
"Jim has always encouraged disciplined tackling, he has always encouraged us to try and win the ball back. That message hasn't changed much. You still want to go out and try to do that."