Michael Murphy points to an unstoppable Dublin
Donegal captain says defeat to Mayo was a painful lesson, especially in number of wides
Donegal’s Michael Murphy says you rarely see Dublin miss shots. “Their plan really revolves around creating the best possible scoring opportunity.” Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
We offer our commiserations then ask to be repaid in kind. Assuming by now that Michael Murphy has come to terms with the fact that Donegal are not playing in the All-Ireland football semi-final, how does he see it going?
It may sound a tad unfair, only Murphy certainly doesn’t shy away from it. The Donegal captain, in town to collect his PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for July, makes no excuse for their defeat to Mayo last Saturday evening, before confidently predicting that Dublin will win the five-in-a-row with little chance of being stopped.
As the last county to beat Dublin in the football championship – at the semi-final stage five long years ago – Donegal were considered their potential nemesis: that all changed in Castlebar, and, impressed as he was by Mayo, Murphy still believes Dublin are ahead of everyone else.
“Mayo hit the ground running with the levels they brought, intensity and football, and we just didn’t match it,” he says. “They set a tone. I think we managed to stem it at the start of the second half, got it back to within a point, and even though we were missing chances there – myself included – I still thought if we kept battling and kept at it then it would come.
“You can point to the number of out players that were injured. It was a big venue and full house for a team that is still relatively young – is that an excuse? Probably not either.
“Mayo brought it and it’s quite simple we didn’t manage to match it. It was a do-or-die game, it’s something we’re going to have to live with over the winter months. Over the course of the 70 they were the better team without a doubt.” This completes his 13th season with Donegal, having made his debut in 2007 aged 17, and while Murphy expects the entire squad to stick together, it was a painful lesson nonetheless. Especially the number of wides they hit.
“We had a home game in Ballybofey against Tyrone. And we had a game in Castlebar to go and win if we were good enough. So we can have no excuses. The best teams will come through. And that’s what you want from a system. And you have the best four teams in the country playing in the All-Ireland semi-finals over the weekend.
“But then you are suddenly two years into this team and you are realising, not that the excuses become less and less, but the need to perform becomes greater. Getting those two defeats in a row is difficult because I do believe the team is improving, I do believe the team is on the right track, but you need to prove that.
“And the wides, surely, they were ones that I was thinking were going over in my head every day since. Were they ones that you would take on again? You would probably say yes, and you would be hopeful of putting at least three of them over. That’s the thing, the day that you were out there, they didn’t get over and they will ravage at you for the winter now.”
Murphy has little doubt Mayo will bring that same intensity to Croke Park this Saturday evening, fatigued or otherwise, but Dublin present an entirely different challenge.
“With the level of science that’s there now and the level of knowledge about how to peak, you put all your trust in that so you can be able to take part in these games. You just have to do it.
“Dublin obviously rested up a few lads last week. But on the flipside then, you get momentum. You get trust in the way you’re playing, and you get relationships with the players you’re playing with week on week. That can’t be undervalued. That level of consistency of playing week on week with the players you’re playing with and getting to know them.”
“But I’d fancy Dublin, definitely. It has to be said. That’s not saying the three other teams can’t challenge them on a given day. They’ve shown that, each of the three teams sporadically in the league against Dublin.
“It’s just this level of consistency that Dublin seem to be able to bring to it. No team has really gotten close to them this year in the championship. They’ve added more players to their bow and their armoury. It is difficult to see any team beating them.
“Will teams be competitive with them? I do believe they’ll get a competitive game, definitely, in the semi-final or final if they get through. It’s just difficult to see someone beating them, that’s the one.
“They’re so far down the line in it, and teams just really need to keep at it and keep trying to develop and keep bringing through players and keep playing a certain way to try and do it for the course of the 70 minutes.”
Michael Murphy on . . .
Key match ups: Lee Keegan on Ciaran Kilkenny, Patrick Durcan on Jack McCaffrey, etc “They are two phenomenal players, Patrick and Lee. But I don’t know what way they’ll match up. Ciaran Kilkenny is a massive player for Dublin, without a doubt. He’s spending maybe a bit more time closer to goal in comparison maybe to before with Dublin. So, as I say, you could see him being used on him or somebody maybe like a Brian Howard too, who is having a brilliant year.”
How might Donegal have played Dublin?
“I do believe that you do need to rack up a score against Dublin and it’s probably one of the things that teams haven’t been able to do over the last number of years because they were so interested and so mad about how to stop Dublin. And the risks need to come off. You need to have a damn good team. You need to be able to match them as regards that 70-minute period so you need a hell of a lot of things to be going your way and you need a hell of a lot of boxes ticked.
Are Dublin harder to beat now than they were in 2014?
“Their style is, I wouldn’t use the word cautious, but it is a lot more careful in their build-up. The likelihood of mistakes has been diminished, or seems to be diminished. You rarely see them now with missed shots. Their plan really revolves around creating the best possible scoring opportunity.
Is the personnel not quite as strong as in 2014?
“I still think they are playing at a damn good level and with the introduction of a lot of their new players now. Look at Brian Howard and Niall Scully, new leaders on the team, they are phenomenal players. And when you add them to what Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey are doing on a consistent basis, the list kinda goes on. And now you have Diarmuid Connolly to come off the bench too. Not a bad player to have either.”