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difficult year ‘There will be a time when I’m not able to contribute’ – Donegal’s Michael Murphy

Murphy preparing for the future as Donegal ponder the summer’s what-ifs


Michael Murphy, who is an ambassador for Gallghers Bakehouse, believes his own performance let Donegal down against Tyrone. Credit: Sportsfile

Michael Murphy, who is an ambassador for Gallghers Bakehouse, believes his own performance let Donegal down against Tyrone. Credit: Sportsfile

Michael Murphy, who is an ambassador for Gallghers Bakehouse, believes his own performance let Donegal down against Tyrone. Credit: Sportsfile

For pretty much everyone outside of Tyrone, it will be a winter of what-ifs. Small breaks that could have changed things, or even everything. Or as Páidí Ó Sé liked to put it, grains of rice that might have tipped the scale.

But perhaps the greatest imponderable, the deepest pool of regret, lies with Donegal.

What if they had been able to keep Neil McGee on the pitch for more than a few minutes before injury hit in their defeat to the eventual All-Ireland champions? What if Michael Murphy hadn’t carried a knock of his own into that game or had scored his penalty? Or, even more significantly, not gotten sent off in the first half that day?

From that baking afternoon in Enniskillen, Tyrone propelled themselves to an All-Ireland title while Donegal and Murphy were left with the embers of a season to pick through.

“From my own point of view, my own performance let the team down, let the side down, with the penalty miss and then obviously the sending-off,” Murphy said at the launch of Gallaghers Bakehouse new range of breads.

“As well as trying to navigate my way over an injury, that’s been a difficult one, a bitter pill to stomach. But yeah, that’s it, you have to get back up on the horse again and get at it. There’s no point in sulking about, no-one is going to be wanting to listen to you.

“I’ve realised that, that the years are definitely going to be getting shorter for me so you just have to embrace it and get there again and try to put yourself back in the position and try to do it better next time.

“Yeah, listen, it’s been a tight number of months alright.”

He has no issue with the red card shown to him by referee Joe McQuillan that day.

“I had no qualms whatsoever. They’re two yellows. Maybe potentially the first foul, it was the first foul of the day, maybe potentially. But no, it was stupid enough. And I should be experienced enough to know having played the game now for a number of years at inter-county level to realise the way things have changed over the last number of years going in with a yellow card.

“It was just one of them things, there was no intention behind what I was trying to do the second time, somebody just got to the ball before me and I had already committed to what I was doing in the action and no, I can have no qualms whatsoever with the red, not at all.”

Murphy has struggled with an hamstring injury all year that was aggravated against Down. In fact, he’s still managing it now as Glenswilly find themselves in a Donegal SFC relegation semi-final this weekend. Whether it contributed to the penalty miss or his sending-off is not something he’s keen to dive into.

And in any case, suggesting Donegal could have gone all the way had they got past Tyrone is all a little too linear.

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“It crosses the mind but at the end of the day, what Tyrone have went on and done thereafter, there was a hell of a lot more to navigate than just that one game so, as I say, credit to them, they went on and navigated the whole way after and that was impressive. And for ourselves that’s the pill we have to swallow again this year and try and get on the horse again to get back and at it.

“I still believe in the group that’s currently here that we can do it, that we can be competitive with any team that there is in the country. But, you know, again, speaking about that and doing it are two completely different things and I know that so that’s what we have to try and get into a new year for.

“That wait for that to come around again is a long wait and a painful wait but at times that is needed, just to really push on and push yourself on.”

Murphy’s not trying to hide from the fact that Donegal have missed a couple of big chances on the biggest days. Recent defeats to Cavan, Tyrone and Mayo when a last-four spot was up from grabs stick in the craw. Still, Murphy believes.

“I am still adamant about that, still have full belief in that one. Every night, I go out and train with the group that is there, and take the field in Convoy, I have no doubt as to what we can do, no doubt in the ability that surrounds you.

“But again, me talking and telling yourself and the rest of the lads that yeah, this team can do it and actually going out and doing it in those games against Tyrone in the championship, against Mayo in the championship, against Cavan in the championship, those are the days when we have to show that we can go on and do it.

“I have that inner belief that this group still can go on and do it, the age profile of them is still perfect, the ability that is there is really, really good. And it is just about waiting for the opportunity to get on that horse again and the time to come around where we get the chance to show it again. And do our talking on the pitch.”

Only 32, he accepts that time is ticking on. 2022 will be his 16th season with the county, having made his debut in Donegal aged just 17.

“I’m conscious that there’s probably less years left than maybe there was a number of years back but no, I’ve a target in my head and there’s still a number of years left in me that I believe I can contribute. So like I’m just going to keep going.

“I still love it. I still absolutely love playing. I love the newer generation that’s come in, I love the challenge of getting to know them, mingling with them and even the strengths that they’re currently bringing – maybe that’s always the way with the younger generation, the strengths that they bring in terms of pace but I do believe in terms of skill level in general in GAA at the moment, in terms of flair, what’s there, in terms of tactical outlets, in terms of where the game is at at the moment, I think it’s in a really, really strong position.

“Individually I think players have brought the game to a new level and teams as well. So I do love that challenge of still doing that and still trying to keep Donegal at that level. That fire is still fairly burning within you to keep doing it and being motivated to do it.

“There will be a time that comes fairly shortly when I’m either not able to contribute or I’m a pain in the a**e and I don’t need to be around any more and that will come too. I don’t know but I hope I will be big enough to recognise and acknowledge that.”

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