Friday 19 July 2019

Mighty Murphy determined to lift Donegal to new level

Donegal's Michael Murphy. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Donegal's Michael Murphy. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

Eamon McGee knows better than most how imposing and influential the ferocious frame of Michael Murphy's can be.

The two won an All-Ireland with Donegal in 2012 and collected three Ulster titles under Jim McGuinness.

McGee would regularly mark Murphy in training and he saw both sides of the Donegal captain.

After Murphy's devastating display, one that yielded nine points, against Roscommon on Saturday evening, it was McGee who perhaps best summed up the Glenswilly man's importance.

"Without him we'd probably still be the stag-party team, good craic but no medal," McGee tweeted.

Murphy is still only 28, but Saturday's game at Dr Hyde Park was his 140th for Donegal and his 60th championship appearance.

For all of Paul Durcan's saves, Karl Lacey's pocket-pinching, Neil Gallagher's high fetching or Colm McFadden's unerring shooting, Murphy was the foundation Donegal were built on during their golden era.

Murphy remains the heartbeat. On Saturday, just five players - Murphy, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn, Paddy McGrath and Leo McLoone - from the 2012 All-Ireland final lined out in Roscommon.

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This was one of Murphy's best performances for Donegal and one that once more raged a debate about where Donegal can get the most out of him.

Having started at midfield, Donegal moved the captain in midway through the first half - and he wreaked havoc. For Murphy, there is no conundrum to ponder.

"I just want to be effective for Donegal," Murphy said. "We all do. The game has got so fast and hectic that people pop up in different scenarios and different positions.

"Wherever I can be most effective is where I want to play, whether that's inside, outside, or at corner-back, I really don't care. It's just important to be effective and to bring something to the team."

Joe Brolly last week wrote in the 'Sunday Independent' that Murphy was "wandering around the no-man's land of the middle third in big games, giving the odd handpass and taking the frees", while Colm Cooper also questioned his effectiveness around the middle.

"You put yourself up there as a player," Murphy shrugged. "Some days it goes for you, some days it doesn't. We're experienced with that now and you just take the good with the bad.

"That's football. There's the old thing that you're only as good as your last game. Individually and collectively we did fail to push on against Dublin and with the spotlight that's on now, you're always open."

Roscommon manager Kevin McStay called him a "once-in-a-generation player" who was "the real deal". But even on a near-perfect night, Murphy was eager to look at where the next few percentage points can come from.

He said: "There was a lot of sloppiness and a lot of chances that were still there for me.

"Dublin are a fantastic side, but we were disappointed and we came to Roscommon with a point to prove.

"We just wanted to get back on the horse again. We couldn't feel sorry for ourselves and we needed a performance. As the first half went on, we found pockets and bits of space. In the second half, there were chances that we need to punish as the weeks go on."

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