Tuesday 15 October 2019

Michael Murphy's unseen work and the Stephen Rochford factor - Peter Canavan analyses Donegal victory

Michael Murphy of Donegal celebrates win over Tyrone
Michael Murphy of Donegal celebrates win over Tyrone
Bonner: Big decisions to make. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

John Morley

There is no doubt that the Tyrone tactics of man-marking and kick passing played into the Donegal counter-attacking game plan last Saturday.

Tyrone's kick passes into their full-forward line, which had been so effective during the league, were nullified by Donegal's blanket defence.

Likewise, Tyrone's man-marking approach left them exposed at the back to Donegal, when they were on the counterattack, in a way that resembled Jim McGuinness' coop of Dublin in 2014, as the men from the hills ran into acres of space in the Dublin's defence, producing one of the upsets of the decade in Gaelic football.

But, Peter Canavan believes that one of the most overlooked factors to Donegal's victory was Michael Murphy's influence in winning kick-outs for Declan Bonner's men.

"Donegal won 23 out of 24 kick-outs. That mightn't seem like much if the opposing team were allowing them to win short kick-outs, but the fact was that Tyrone were actually pushing up on Donegal," said Canavan on The Throw-In podcast, in association with Bord Gáis Energy.

"In over half of those kick-outs the ball was kicked out long and Donegal continued to win ball after ball. The main source of that was Michael Murphy, he was the target for so many kick-outs.

"When there wasn't space on either wing for him to run onto, Sean Patton blasted it straight out the middle and Murphy was often the target for those kick-outs," he added.

Canavan heaped praise on former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, who is a selector with Donegal, as a contributing factor to their tactical prowess.

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"Donegal had their homework done, you can give Stephen Rochford a lot of credit for what's going on there in the background for what's going on, as well as Declan Bonner, but they were a team that knew exactly what they were at," he said.

Canavan was mesmerised by the leadership and versatility of Murphy, recalling a brilliant point he scored after winning an amazing high ball, floated into him on the edge of the square.

"It also helps when you have a leader there like Michael Murphy who can dictate things. At one stage he ended up in the full-forward line, a big high ball came in, he won it and kicked it over the bar," said Canavan.

"A few seconds later he was out winning kick-outs, so he seems to come and go as he seems fit, but you can't question his judgement."

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