Sunday 18 March 2018

Murphy: I'll know when it's time to step down as skipper

Donegal captain Michael Murphy. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donegal captain Michael Murphy. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

Michael Murphy still remembers the day the call came from Jim McGuinness.

Murphy captained the Donegal U-21s to Ulster glory in 2010, and to within the width of a crossbar of pipping Dublin in an All-Ireland final. But at senior level, Murphy had yet to win a game in the Ulster SFC, even thought he'd been on the panel since the summer of 2007.

He was at home in Bomany, on a quiet country road outside Letterkenny, when McGuinness - who had just been appointed as senior manager following the departure of John Joe Doherty - rang to say he wanted Murphy to be his captain.

"I was down in the bedroom. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. It was a shock," Murphy (27) says ahead of his seventh summer as Donegal's skipper. "It wasn't something that I just said yes to right away. I was so young.

"Did it change me? I don't think it did. For the first while, maybe when I wasn't playing well there was pressure.

"That'll happen any captain. If you don't play well the first thing you think of is that. If you're captain you need to perform. That's pressure you put on yourself.

"There were a lot of big leaders in that side. Even over the last number of years we've had that.

"But I know fine well when I'm not performing myself as a player or captain… I'll know it's time to ship it on."

Antrim, who visit Ballybofey on Sunday from the depths of Division 4, are seen as fodder for a side of Donegal's ambitions, but the memories of 2009 still haunt Murphy. Then, the Saffrons rolled up to Mac Cumhaill Park and shocked Donegal.

Read more: 'We don't want to be playing at our age' - Ex-Donegal star Martin Shovlin (56) on the rural GAA crisis

Two years later, Donegal got over the line against Antrim in a game that saw Pat Spillane coin the phrase 'puke football'. It was a day that kick-started the Donegal renaissance.


"It was a win!" Murphy exclaims now.

Donegal's new era will dawn on Sunday and Murphy believes success at underage level will stand the new batch in good stead.

"These younger lads are really focused and driven," he says. "There is now a certain way of playing, certain way of training and a certain expectation.

"They have been brought up with that and that's the difference now with these lads coming in. They don't know any different. It's not the culture shock it was for that last generation."

Irish Independent

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