Thursday 22 February 2018

Murphy calls for 'master fixtures plan'

Star insists time for talking about crisis is over as he backs Donegal's new generation to shine

Michael Murphy had to change his colours when trying his hand at professional rugby with Clermont Auvergne as part of AIB’s ‘The
Toughest Trade’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Murphy had to change his colours when trying his hand at professional rugby with Clermont Auvergne as part of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

In the past month Michael Murphy has taken tackles from the best Clermont Auvergne's Top 14 rugby side has to offer while also trying his damnedest to derail Dublin's 32-game unbeaten streak and it's hard for him to decide which is more demanding.

Brushing shoulders with legends like Aurelien Rougerie left him somewhat starstruck after spending a week in France during AIB's 'The Toughest Trade' (which airs tonight on RTÉ2 at 9.30) and it has moulded an appreciation for what it takes to make it with the oval ball.

Despite possessing a physical prowess matched by few in the game, Murphy admits the rugby hits were "full-on, something you'd never experience on a Gaelic football field" and that he's "definitely not at the same level as some of them" physically.

The Glenswilly attacker, known as the Man-Child during his younger years, would have likely succeeded at rugby given his leadership qualities and technical expertise, but Donegal football is always at the forefront of his mind.

Counterparts

And while Donegal players don't shake hands with each other every morning like their rugby counterparts, the 27-year-old was nearly celebrating the end of Dublin's remarkable winning run with his inexperienced team-mates in Ballybofey last Sunday.

Much like their shock All-Ireland semi-final defeat of the Dubs three years ago, they hit the back-to-back champions for two goals in quick succession but they were unable to put the final nail through their coffin as they "went into a wee bit of a shell" in the closing minutes.

A draw caused their captain to reflect and it reminded him just how hard Jim Gavin's powerhouse are to beat. "They're really, really tenacious in terms of how competitive they are without the ball and then also in terms of going forward," he said.

"Their threats come from a variety of sources. From corner-back right up to corner-forward so that's just extremely hard to plan for. Once you do plan for it, you then have to plan for it over the course of a full 70 minutes.

"You can keep them quiet for five or ten minutes but every now and then, somebody is going to pop up who isn't covered. And once that player pops up who isn't covered, he's well able to take his chance.

"So they cover both aspects of it. It's as simple as that. They're so strong defensively in one-on-one scenarios. Tactically, they are very good in defence. And going forward, they just have the threats."

With a host of their 2012 All-Ireland-winning side recently sailing off into the sunset, there was much doom and gloom surrounding the county's ability to compete at the top table with a fresh crop of youngsters but Murphy is delighted with their application thus far.

"It's like starting out again. You do embrace it. There are certain times you look over your shoulder and expect to see one of the lads there at a training sessions who are not there any more. But slowly and surely, these younger lads do have the capability to do it," he said.

"They've showed signs week in, week out. They are growing in confidence and a lot of them showed that against Dublin. The younger lads now who are playing Gaelic football, they're not as daunted by occasions like that."

Another player unavailable to Rory Gallagher's squad is Odhrán MacNiallais, who fired 3-5 for Gaoth Dobhair against Kilcar at the weekend, but Murphy reiterated that "the door is left wide open" should he wish to return.

While Donegal have made the All-Ireland quarter-final for the past six years, Murphy is not in favour of the new 'Super 8' format passed at last weekend's Congress and he feels "it's not getting to the crux of the scenario".

He also questions the feasibility of having league, provinces and Super 8. "The whole problem is the fixture list throughout the year. It's just not being addressed for the club and the county footballer.

"Whatever positive or negative thing anybody has done, if the fixture list is not addressed, it's just going to be very, very demoralising for everyone year on year so it just has to be done.

"If we can play league games week on week or every two weeks, there's no reason why we can't play championship games the same.

"There's no reason why we can't play our All-Ireland on the August Bank Holiday weekend and leave sufficient time for club football in good weather. A master fixture plan has to be drawn up. Everybody is chatting about it but nobody is doing anything about it."

Irish Independent

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