JOE talks to Michael Murphy about the league, the black card and the fastest opponent he's faced
With the GAA season underway and the Championship fast approaching, JOE caught up with Donegal’s Michael Murphy for his thoughts on the year so far and what lies ahead.
Rewind the clock back a year and the Donegal footballers were in a far different place than they are at the moment. As the reigning All-Ireland Champions, they were being held up, deservedly so, as the team to beat and many sides were imitating, or at least attempting to imitate, the style that had brought them to the promised land for the first time in 20 years.
After relegation to Division Two and a disappointing Championship campaign followed, however, Jim McGuinness’ men are now exactly where they and every other GAA team in the country would want to be approaching the Championship; under the radar, hiding in the long grass, throw out whatever other GAA cliché you like.
Seven points from five games and a position atop the Division Two table alongside Ulster rivals Monaghan and Down has put Donegal in a good position to bounce straight back to the top flight and fed the perception that they are taking the league seriously, as opposed to last year, when it was assumed that it was well down the list of priorities.
It is an assumption Michael Murphy was eager to address when speaking to JOE earlier this week.
“This year is really no different to any other year to be honest,” Murphy said.
“If you ask any team they’ll tell you that the Championship is more important than the league and we’ve gone out to win every single league game this year, as we did last year and as we did two years ago.
"Every game is taken seriously but people seem to have taken it out of context because we lost a few games last year. Every game is taken on its merits and taken seriously and it’s not as if we’ve ever gone out not to win a game, but people seem to have put two and two together and come to that conclusion.
“Unfortunately we were on the end of a few defeats last year but we take every game as it comes and like most teams, we have a bigger eye on the Championship. We’re going out this weekend against Louth and have a fantastic opportunity coming into the Championship to put our best foot forward and do the best for the county.”
Although Donegal have reason to be happy enough with how things have gone so far, Murphy acknowledges that it can be difficult when players are involved with their club, with their college and with the county under-21 side at this time of year. It is something he knows all about as this is the first time in a few years he’s been involved from the get-go having been a crucial member of the DCU Sigerson side in recent years. Has he benefitted from the experience?
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for the last few years to be honest,” Murphy told us.
“Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every year in DCU, I enjoyed playing Sigerson, I was very lucky to play in it and very lucky to win one but at the same time I was looking forward to being at home.
“Usually you might miss the odd Tuesday night training because of Sigerson but I’ve been at all of the Donegal sessions this year and I’ve enjoyed being there and getting stuck in, there’s a good buzz in the camp and I’ve been fortunate to be there for all the trimmings.”
Another reason for Murphy to enjoy his football this season in particular is because of the freedom, on the surface at least, granted to forwards because of the introduction of the black card, which has contributed to high scores throughout the divisions so far this year.
Murphy was always a hard man to keep down before it was introduced but he’s certainly a fan, even if he is sceptical whether it has made defenders more reluctant to commit to a tackle for fear of getting the line.
“I’m afraid not, defenders are still as tight as ever,” Murphy replied when asked if he’s noticed a looser approach from defenders this season.
“Without a doubt there’s a huge trend of high-scoring games so far in the league but whether it’s solely down to the black card I’m not sure, as I’m sure it’s also a lot to do with it other factors such as teams approaching games in a more attacking frame of mind.
“So far, the introduction has been positive but as the season goes on, the ground gets harder and we move towards the Championship and Croke Park, then we’ll really be in a better place to judge it, but so far it’s been positive definitely.”
When the ground gets harder, as Murphy said, his thoughts and the thoughts of everyone involved with Donegal will turn to Derry, who have been one of the standout teams of the season so far. Murphy admits to “keeping tabs on their progress” and was even trying to play the underdogs card a full two months before what should be a belter of an Ulster quarter-final in Croke Park.
That’s a while down the road yet, however, but considering that we met Michael at the launch of Under Armour’s new footwear innovation Speedform Apollo, we thought we’d ask him who was the fastest player in the Donegal squad and the fastest opposition player he’s faced in his career to date.
“Neil McGee and Patrick McBrearty are very quick over the first few yards but hopefully I’ll be up there come the summer,” he joked.
“As for opposition players Keith Higgins would be right up there, as would Eamon Wallace from Meath. They’re both flyers.”
Donegal captain and GAA All-Star Michael Murphy, was on hand today to launch Under Armour’s new footwear innovation Speedform Apollo. The Donegal footballer promoted the game changing running shoe that is part of Under Armour’s ongoing dedication to continually innovate and help make athletes better. Available from Lifestyle Sports Dundrum or online at www.UnderArmour.com