IT’S 150 UP FOR MAGIC MIKE BUT DEFENCE IS KEY
Kerry v Donegal Croke Park 4pm
ON the occasion of his 150th game for Donegal, it is remarkable Michael Murphy still divides opinion as he does.
Meath great Colm O’Rourke got stuck into Joe Brolly on the Sunday Game last month for suggesting Murphy is a great player.
O’Rourke claimed Murphy has been a peripheral figure in too many big games over the years and that ‘greatness’ is ultimately “dictated by the impact in very big Championship matches in Croke Park”.
“He was marked out of it by Aidan O’Mahony in an All-Ireland final,” said O’Rourke, pointing to Donegal’s 2014 final defeat to Kerry as
Today will be another of those very big Championship matches in Croke Park for Donegal, a repeat of that 2014 final, and a huge opportunity for Murphy to stick it to critics like O’Rourke.
The 2012 All-Ireland winning captain is arguably in the form of his career and, ironically, is fresh off a huge display against O’Rourke’s Meath.
He was man of the match in last weekend’s Super 8s win in Ballybofey, prompting Meath coach Colm Nally to claim Donegal would have lost without him. “The best footballer in Ireland,” was Nally’s summary of the powerhouse full-forward who appears to have been given free licence to roam the field and affect the game as he sees fit.
Aside from an apparent leg injury suffered by Eoghan Ban Gallagher in training this week, Donegal have it all going for them right now.
Martin McHugh, an All-Ireland winner with Donegal in 1992, reckons the main focus for the Ulster champions should be improving at the back.
McHugh said: “We could have conceded three or four goals against Meath. Even for the penalty they got, Meath were allowed to run through our defence.
“We have to stop that against Kerry because you’re coming up against maybe the best forward line in the country outside of Dublin’s. We’re going to have to tighten up and not give away as much in defence.”
Like Murphy, goalkeeper Shaun Patton (left) has been a key man this summer and McHugh reckons Kerry will try to curb his influence.
“Kerry will definitely work on him, they always target keepers. Mayo’s kick-outs were terrible against Kerry so it’s important Donegal give those options out the field for the kick-outs.”
CONTRAST OF EMOTIONS McShane enjoys his goal (above) but it’s hell for Ian Maguire
INFLUENTIAL Michael Murphy is in the form of his life