'Dream' has Murphy coming back for more
Had he been built differently, Michael Murphy might have taken a different tack at the start of this year.
He's just 29 but this is his 13th season with Donegal. Time has flown since he made a goalscoring start to championship life under Brian McIver in a qualifier win over Leitrim as a 17-year-old. Since then, he's been a central cog for the county.
That was particularly apparent on his seasonal return this year. Injury meant he missed the early part of the campaign and March had arrived and the league was more than half over by the time Murphy first lined out for Donegal against Armagh.
A first-half sub, he kicked 1-2 to help the county to a one-point win. By the time they faced Meath in the Division 2 final, the Glenswilly man looked rejuvenated and was close to unplayable as they secured silverware.
Was the extended lay-off something he'd have looked for even if he wasn't recovering from an operation on a troublesome knee problem?
"I wouldn't have, definitely no, no," Murphy said at the 2019 Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps launch.
"I planned to come back as quickly as possible. I was trying to rehab my knee, there was a problem with the knee for the last couple of years.
"I rehabbed it conservatively and tried to do it without the operation but it just got to a stage in January where I knew four weeks out from the start of the National League that it just wasn't getting any better. That's when I went under the (knife) for a wee job. Once I got that done it set the National League back a wee while."
The other factor that had Murphy itching to come back is the potential he sees in the Donegal squad. Some of the heroes of 2012 like Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn and Leo McLoone remain in tow. Paddy McBrearty is working his way back to full fitness after his knee injury and kicked four points as Kilcar beat Murphy's Glenswilly last weekend. Murphy admits McBrearty's injury was a fatal blow to Donegal's season last year.
"The type of football he was playing. He was irreplaceable," Murphy said. "The form he showed in the National League, he carried that on through championship. Even in the Ulster final he was really, really threatening. So yes, looking back, it was difficult to recover from.
"At the same time, we could possibly have still been in an All-Ireland semi-final but Tyrone beat us fair and square on the day. They beat us comprehensively in the end. We didn't have enough to finish it out. Went from four points up to losing quite comfortably. When that happens, you can't put it down to any one player. We weren't up to it as a group. It's not a nice place to be."
There's a chance to rectify that this year and Donegal look in very good shape. Declan Bonner added Stephen Rochford to the backroom team. Couple that with the emergence of 18-year-old Oisín Gallen, who kicked four points in the league final, and it's easy to see the appeal of getting back with Donegal for another campaign. There's one All-Ireland under the belt already but Murphy wants more.
"I don't think you ever settle. It's the thing that keeps you coming back, the dream, the ultimate, but then you need to be realistic too, and I look back at us when we did win it, you were building towards it.
"Your main building stone was Ulster and winning games in Ulster. That was huge for us - 2010, 2011, 2012 - it was massive for us to just win games. Obviously winning the Ulster Championship was huge and gave us huge belief heading to Croke Park because when you go to Croke Park I think you need a huge belief that you're meant to be there and that you have a good opportunity to win."