Sunday 19 November 2017

Donegal's Michael Murphy highlights just how important the GAA is

Michael Murphy is swapping Gaelic football for rugby as part of AIB’s Toughest Trade. Photo: Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Murphy is swapping Gaelic football for rugby as part of AIB’s Toughest Trade. Photo: Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

With his natural athleticism and outstanding leadership qualities, there's little doubt that Michael Murphy could have made it at any sport he tried his hand at.

Often referred to as 'The Man-child' in his younger days, the Donegal skipper was courted by AFL side Geelong, but Donegal football has always been his one true love.

In the coming weeks he will take a rare break from inter-county duty to join French rugby Top 14 side Clermont Auvergne where he will rub shoulders with Wesley Fofana, Morgan Parra and Aurelien Rougerie as part of AIB's 'The Toughest Trade'.

The week's training, which doesn't interfere with Donegal's league preparations, will bring its share of challenges but Murphy will likely take to the oval ball like a duck to water and share any lessons learned with Rory Gallagher.

Motivation

With the demands on inter-county players, and many options to explore other sporting avenues, 'love of the jersey' is often lost and while it's often viewed as old school and clichéd, it's sums up the Glenswilly attacker's motivation.

"I wouldn't have hacked it," Murphy says when asked about life Down Under. "There were times I'd say, 'I would love to be out in a professional environment' but living in Australia, I wouldn't have been cut out for it, not a hope.

"I just would have missed home too much! I know myself. I'm quite honest, that time and it still is, I just want to play for Donegal. I want to play for as many years as I can with my county and with my club. That was my real big desire.

"There was the desire to go and live a professional lifestyle but what do you really want to do in a sporting context? You want to play with your club and with your county and win things with both. In life it is really the only one thing I want to do. It's the one thing I've always wanted to do, so for as long as I can keep going at it, for as long as I can keep contributing something I'll be doing it - whether that's another two years, three years, four years or more I'll just keep at it, you know."

For the last decade the 27-year-old, who led Donegal to All-Ireland triumph five years ago, continues to be their driving force and his maturity will be needed more than ever in a challenging season.

Experienced hands like Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye and David Walsh followed Colm McFadden and Eamon McGee into retirement while the absence of Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson and "class act" Odhrán MacNiallais leave them short staffed.

While Murphy "expected a good few of them to go," it's still difficult to lose your "best friends" but Neil Gallagher has "definitely turned a corner" in his battle against injury and is still on board along with 2012 Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey. Both are invaluable as Gallagher's "building phase" bloods youngsters.

"It's great for the younger players to see what these boys are about, still training hard and back training the first couple of months like young fellas - it's important for those young fellas to have a season or two with them," he said.

"To see where they come from, see where they're at, see how they react and behave around the training set-up. It's vitally important that the younger players grow up with that and see the culture that's left there for them.

"Their athleticism and the whole excitement of them brings you back to when you did start and it's good to be involved with that again. There's a need and requirement for them to get the game-time, get the chance and be trusted in the jersey and the whole set-up because I believe they are good enough but they just need to get that trust."

Doubters

Murphy wasn't up to his usual high standards last season but with a full pre-season behind him, he's hoping to silence some doubters. And despite "coming up short in a lot of areas" in their quarter-final defeat to Dublin, he feels they can compete for All-Ireland honours.

"I still believe it, we do have the ability and footballers to do it. We've a hell of a lot of things going for us but one of the main focuses of this year is the development of this whole squad. Hopefully success at league and provincial level, if that comes, without a shadow of doubt we'll be going for an All-Ireland.

"You have to believe that when you're setting out, you just have to. It's one thing believing and another thing going doing it. But I'm not going to say we're going out to win an All-Ireland when development of all these players is the big one."

Irish Independent

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