Murphy holds key

Frank Roche

DONEGAL v DOWN (Ballybofey, Tonight 7.0, Live Setanta Sports 1)

THE past week has reinforced something we already knew: when he's 100pc fit, Michael Murphy is virtually unmarkable.

For most of last season, even while leading Donegal to the All-Ireland final, you got the sense that Murphy was always either trying to shake off the remnants of injury or battling to reclaim full match sharpness.

The Tír Chonaill talisman timed his run perfectly, mind you, as Mayo's traumatised full-back line discovered to their cost last September.

Fast-forward five months and, while most of the Donegal squad are a long way off last year's incredible strength and conditioning yardstick, their captain is flying fit and on fire. He was majestic in their opening-night defeat to Kildare; he was every bit as influential for DCU against Queens in the Sigerson on Thursday. In two games he has tallied 18 points, nine from play. Case closed.

Donegal may have fitness ground to make up but, if Murphy plays the full 70 minutes, it's hard to see how Down can avoid a second straight defeat.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Donegal 4/11, Draw 15/2, Down 3/1 VERDICT: Donegal