Michael Murphy reflects on Donegal’s defeat to Monaghan in Ulster final

All-Ireland champions need to set it up for football qualifier against Laois

Donegal footballer Michael Murphy at his home club of Glenswilly,  where the official launch of the 2013 GAA Football Championship All-Ireland Series took place. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/ Sportsfile.

Donegal footballer Michael Murphy at his home club of Glenswilly, where the official launch of the 2013 GAA Football Championship All-Ireland Series took place. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/ Sportsfile.

Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 01:00

The dethroned Ulster football champions met up on Monday night to survey the ruins. Michael Murphy was adamant, at yesterday’s All-Ireland championship launch at his own Glenswilly GAA club, that the foundations are intact.

Monaghan outplayed us in every facet of our game,” said Murphy over and over again yesterday.

An honest mantra. A man keen to use actions rather than words, suffice to say, he can’t wait to face Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon this Saturday.

“Every man is mad to put it right.”

It was supposed to be a special day for the Murphy family but Monaghan captain Eoin Lennon, with only had a few hours notice, was present as the Ulster representative. Still, Murphy’s Dad, Mick senior, gave a decent speech welcoming GAA dignitaries and media to their patch of the world (a modern, debt-free club is Glenswilly).

His son also turned up, coached the kids and sat patiently alongside representatives from the four provincial champions.

Murphy refused to point out any flaws leading up to Sunday’s Ulster final defeat. Donegal are preparing the “exact same” this week as they did the week before. But people are talking. Joe Brolly hinted on The Sunday Game that a heavy training session may have contributed to their sluggish showing in Clones.

“Ah, it was just a normal Tuesday night session. Same as we have always done. When you get beat people make up things, saying you didn’t do this or you didn’t do that.”

But you get where that idea came from?

“It is a fair enough assumption but the legs felt good, mentally I thought we were in a good place. We are in a good place. We didn’t perform. Monaghan performed.

Out attacked
“We are going around in circles here. We just didn’t perform. They out defended us. Out attacked us. We are going to have to out defend Laois and out attack them. Score more, concede less.”

Note to sports interviewees: when an insightful answer isn’t forthcoming get used to the same question asked in a different way.

“I’ll go over it again. We trained normal, prepared well, tactically, physically, mentally we were in a good spot, but we didn’t perform.”

On the evidence of how Down and now Monaghan set up, have teams worked out the Donegal system?

“That’s fair. That’s Gaelic football. It evolves, a couple of years ago it was the thing with Kieran Donaghy on the edge of the square, a massive threat, a new leaf in Gaelic football.

“Over the last couple of years there has been a lot made of men behind the ball and defending and different things like that.”

Maybe its hunger, maybe they are in the same zone as Dublin last year and Tyrone during their golden period from 2003 to 2008. Both failed to maintain their highest standard in successive seasons.

Maybe they are just a different side without Mark McHugh.

McHugh’s early departure with concussion, and subsequent hospitalisation, on Sunday leaves a gaping void in the Donegal team.

“Mark is a fantastic player. Everybody knows that.

No point
“It’s something we’ll definitely have to deal with if he’s out. If we are without him there is no point lying about and sulking. Somebody will come in and take the place and try and put the job forward. You never know, hopefully, fingers crossed, he might be back, you never know.”

Someone asked earlier in the day whether Laois could handle the Donegal power game.

“Yeah, they are a big team, a physical team with capable forwards who can play football. And performing under Justin McNulty.”

Murphy and his team-mates watched the trophy presentation on Sunday.

“Ach, that’s the thing you should always do. Man up to it straight away. We were on the other end the last couple of years being up there.

“It was fantastic for them and they are going into the All-Ireland series as very worthy Ulster champions so it is brilliant for them. This is just part of it; you have to be gracious in defeat, as you are gracious when winning. It is something I have always been told, so it is something I will always do.”

After the 15-minute grilling he thanked us all for coming to his club. Impressive behaviour from the 23-year-old considering the line of questioning.

Questioning Donegal’s very being. It’s just the way he has always been told.