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Murphy's Law: Where to play Donegal genius?

AMID the hectic promotional GAA activity already taken place this week, Kevin Cassidy said this about Donegal's possible deployment of Michael Murphy (below) this Sunday: "They could probably play Michael at the edge of the square and Colm (McFadden) and go at them," he began, "but I don't think that's going to be the case.

"You are going to see Michael being withdrawn to his usual role and maybe Colm or maybe even Odhrán MacNiallais up there just to change things a bit."

Then on Tuesday, Mickey Whelan - one of the few men to successfully crack the Donegal nut back in that game in 2011 - took up the Murphy baton and ran off in an entirely different direction: "It wouldn't surprise me if they went the opposite way completely," he said.

"It wouldn't surprise me if Michael Murphy stayed up front and the other guy (McFadden) go back. Because the other guy is not doing his job effectively as a forward and he might do it effectively as a defender…because he's never going to stop working."


The point is, we don't know.

And Jim McGuinness has always excelled in the more clandestine aspects of team management.

Going into the 2012 All-Ireland final, Murphy had kicked just two points from play in total over six previous rounds of Donegal's All-Ireland SFC run and spent no significant amount of time occupying the position to which his hulking physical construction and sumptuous range of talents seem best suited.

Within three minutes, he had a goal, a sort of shock-and-awe score from which Mayo never fully recuperated.

By the end, Murphy had 1-4, the Man of the Match award and a seat next to Sam Maguire on the team bus as it snaked through the hills of Donegal.

Cometh the hour…

"It doesn't matter where I play," he says himself, somewhat predictably, about his possible positioning this Sunday.

"I don't give a damn as long as we get the result we want. We have trust in Jim that when he places you in a role that it's for the greater good of the team."

It's an interesting question though, posed by the rarity of encountering a team that devotes so little of its tactical terms of reference to clogging up the space in which someone like Murphy might ordinarily make hay with deep-lying attackers.

As Murphy himself says: "You play what's put in front of you. You plan accordingly and you approach every game as best you can," and in this case, a spell inside might look the most beneficial use of his time to Donegal.

For a start, because McFadden's scoring return is low. And such is the frequency with which Dublin create scoring chances themselves, Donegal will need to get something off almost every ball that put in there.

Yes, he kicked the winning score against Armagh coming from behind the ball and arguably, Murphy is the most powerful footballer in Ireland breaking through bodies around the middle.

But McGuinness tried it before in the 2010 All-Ireland Under 21 final in Breffni Park when Murphy went in on top of Rory O'Carroll.

That day, he came off second best, missed a penalty and O'Carroll won the Man of the Match award granted by sponsors, Cadbury's.

"They're mean in defence," says Murphy of the most obvious improvement in Dublin's make up this year.

"They probably haven't got the credit they deserve there but their backs work really hard. They can grab a game by the scruff of the neck and within minutes turn it on its head as we've already seen this season.

He adds: "They're so dynamic around the middle as well. The challenges that they represent all over the field are massive. But it's up to us to implement our own gameplan. That's the process in the lead up to Dublin."