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Murphy is Donegal's central key

SMOOTH doesn't begin to describe the changeover from Jim McGuinness to Rory Gallagher in the Donegal senior manager's job,

Not, admittedly, an easy act to follow.

But follow it, Gallagher has and Donegal looked just as dangerous now as at any stage during the last four years of McGuinness's reign.

Paddy McBrearty's form is taking the sting out of having to play Michael Murphy (inset) in such a deep role but the latter remains utterly central to his team's well-being.

Aidan O'Mahony and Justin McMahon have provided the template for how to curtail Murphy's influence but even playing mostly behind the ball, his passing and reading of the play compliment Donegal's aggressive running game.

His status as football's most proficient dead ball kicker is unquestioned.

Kerry, Dublin et al now employ a variation of the same zonal defence, leaving Donegal facing the same attacking conundrum as they have presented everyone else.

KEY QUESTION: Can they last the pace?

Arduous doesn't begin to describe their road to September and the Sam Maguire.

Tyrone, Armagh, Derry, Galway, Kerry and Dublin could be their All-Ireland winning victims.

And that's if they go the direct route.