Following the script and living the dream
MAN OF THE MATCH MICHAEL MURPHY (Donegal):A FORTNIGHT ago, Michael Murphy sat down in front of a computer and got it out of the way. You don’t like to tempt fate with these things but in a land where planning is king, you do what has to be done and you take your chances with the gods.
If Donegal won, Murphy was going to have to make a speech. So he typed it up – all three pages of it – and gave it to the team’s logistics man Michael McMenamin for safe keeping. On the biggest day of your life, you’re best keeping the off-the-cuff stuff for the pitch.
The man-child from Glenswilly with the Desperate Dan chin was everything Donegal need him to be yesterday. When the stadium was a jig-jogging frenzy of nerves in the opening, his goal after three minutes put shape on the day.
After catching the ball on the edge of the square above the head of Kevin Keane, he landed and shot right-footed after just a couple of steps. David Clarke had no time to set himself because Murphy took neither a hop nor a solo nor even a look at the target. From that point on, Mayo were wiping dirt from their goggles just to keep Donegal in view.
“Certain scenarios can crop up that win games,” he said afterwards. “It’s something you visualise when you are younger and something you visualise in the weeks leading up to the game, that a scenario like that might arise. And if it does you have to capitalise on it as best you can. It was nice to have done that.
“It was just unfortunate that midway through the first half and into the latter stages that we didn’t carry on playing the way we normally do play and that affected us and affected the scoreboard. It was tit-for-that and it could have been anyone’s game.”
That it turned out to be Donegal’s ultimately came down to him. After Mayo had cut their seven-point lead down to three going into the last 20 minutes, Donegal were starting to bleed just a little. It was Murphy who applied the plaster, converting a huge free in the 56th minutes and following it up three minutes later with another.
When he beat Clarke to a high ball in on top of the square eight minutes from the end, his punch just skimmed the top of the crossbar. Any Donegal woe at the missing of a goal chance was leavened by the realisation that nobody on the pitch but Murphy had scored for the exact 10 minutes when Mayo needed to be making a game of the endgame. That punch put them six points up. Game over, even if he couldn’t admit as much.