Saturday 26 May 2018

Murphy at midfield now a much better fit for Donegal - McHugh

McHugh Snr feels Michael Murphy is now a more valuable asset out at midifeld during this period of transition. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
McHugh Snr feels Michael Murphy is now a more valuable asset out at midifeld during this period of transition. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The last Cavan manager to engineer an Ulster football championship win over Donegal will have quite a stake-holding in Sunday's preliminary round but, 21 years on, Martin McHugh's allegiance will be firmly with the home side in Ballybofey.

Cavan's 2-16 to 2-10 win over Donegal in the 1997 Ulster championship semi-final was the penultimate step for their only provincial title in the last half-century.

The counties have met four times in Ulster since with Donegal victorious each time, though a 2005 qualifier went Cavan's way.

McHugh's sons, Mark and Ryan, feature prominently for Donegal while another Kilcar club-mate, Patrick McBrearty, had been in the form of his life during the league until injury sidelined him.

McHugh Snr feels the power McBrearty is bringing to his game makes him the obvious fulcrum for Donegal's attack with Michael Murphy now a more valuable asset out at midifeld during this period of transition.

Between McBrearty and Murphy, the 1992 All-Ireland winner, and RTÉ and BBC analyst, feels Donegal have arguably the best combination of free-takers in the game.

"They are two exceptional free-takers, the most equipped (duo) of any team in Ireland. McBrearty has become exceptional with frees, even with the club. Teams have to be far more disciplined. Frees are very important."

McBrearty's development, on the cusp of his eighth championship season at the age of 24, gives Donegal greater licence to play Murphy further outfield, something that has been contentious in the past but not now, says McHugh.

He feels the modern game doesn't allow for two big players like them to be in the same inside line.

"I know people say Murphy should play inside but it does give Donegal a big option to play him outfield.

"I thought Murphy, particularly in the league in 2017, was exceptional in midfield. His individual performance against Cork in the league was as good a performance from a Donegal player in the middle of the field. With the loss of Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh, you can't easily replace that type of player.

"Until we get some of these young lads to develop, Michael Langan or Jason McGee, and playing with Hugh McFadden, we're going to need Michael out there.

"You can vary himself and Patrick in and out. Against Kerry in the league, Patrick came out and played well. At the minute Murphy is more valuable at midfield/centre-forward. We need his ability to win ball and run at teams and take ball at pace off colleagues' shoulders."

McHugh admits to "disappointment" that young players like Michael Carroll, McGee and Eoin McHugh are not available for this campaign.

He describes the loss of Dara McVeety to Cavan through injury as comparable to Donegal losing McBrearty but feels they will thrive on being written off.

"I was there during the week and there's not many giving them a chance but players will love that. To me they are the best football county in Ireland. I would even put them ahead of Kerry.

"I managed their U-21 side in the 1996 All-Ireland final against Kerry and there were over 40,000 at the game, all Cavan. They've been starved of it."

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