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Monday 21 August 2017

Murphy: Dubs at a level we must get to

Influential Donegal captain praises Jim Gavin's team's tenacity without the ball after near miss in Ballybofey

Michael Murphy is pictured ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ airing tonight at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2. Murphy trade the round ball for the oval ball with former Welsh winger Shane Williams as he tries professional rugby with Top 14 side ASM Clermont Auvergne while Williams travels to Glenswilly GAA Club in Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Murphy is pictured ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ airing tonight at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2. Murphy trade the round ball for the oval ball with former Welsh winger Shane Williams as he tries professional rugby with Top 14 side ASM Clermont Auvergne while Williams travels to Glenswilly GAA Club in Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

Three days on and Michael Murphy admits he's been "reflecting quite a bit" on Donegal's draw with Dublin in Ballybofey last Sunday.

Mostly, he's not sure whether it was a chance spurned to do what no one has managed in two years and beat Dublin or whether it was the ballsy salvaging of an important League point against a team that don't offer up too many.

Thanks to a late, albeit questionable free converted with characteristic expertise by Murphy, Donegal became the fifth team in 32 matches to draw with Dublin.

Yet the perfectionist in Murphy reminds him that Donegal led by three points at half-time in a low-scoring slog at home, but wound up as the 32nd team in-a-row not to beat Dublin.

"There's a possibility that we should really push on and win after really not playing too well in the first half other than the couple of goals," Murphy says now.

Daunted

"We felt there was a good bit of room for improvement in the second half.

"I just don't think we kicked on. We just went into our shell a wee bit. So yeah, there was an opportunity there, definitely."

With such a young, inexperienced team against a fairly gnarled and medalled Dublin one, the performance and almost the result was still hugely encouraging for Donegal.

"The younger lads," Murphy explains, "they're not as daunted by occasions like that."

As to why Dublin are a such a tough nut to crack, Murphy has various angles of insight.

His history with them is colourful.

He has lost an All-Ireland Under-21 final in 2010 to Jim Gavin's Dubs (he wrestled with Rory O'Carroll for most of the game and smashed a late penalty off the bar to win the match) up till last year's All-Ireland quarter-final loss.

Yet he was also a leading character in Jim McGuinness's great 2014 All-Ireland semi-final ambush and the 2011 tactical borefest that attracted such immediate notoriety.

"They're extremely tenacious without the ball," he notes.

"They are beginning to be seen as that. And they've always been like that.

"They're really, really tenacious in terms of how competitive they are without the ball."

"And then in terms of going forward," the Glenswilly man continues, "their threats come from a variety of sources.

"From corner-back right up to corner-forward. So that's just extremely hard to plan for.

"Once you do plan for it, you then have to plan for it over the course of a full 70 minutes.

"You can keep them quiet for five or ten minutes but every now and then, somebody is going to pop up who isn't covered.

"And once that player pops up who isn't covered, he's well able to take his chance. So they cover both aspects of it.

"That's really as simple as it is, I believe. They're so strong defensively in one-on-one scenarios.

"They're tactically very good defensively in the way they defend. And going forward, they just have the threats."

Murphy says he has seen noticeable, but not significant, differences in how Dublin defend counter attacks since that big '14 win but otherwise, he attributes their success to a mastery of the basics.

"At the end of the day, I go back to what I'm saying in terms of the skills," he explains.

"Their players are extremely, superbly skilled.

"And superbly well-conditioned. From number two to 15 and the five or six that are coming in off the bench.

"And they're at a level the rest of us need to get to in every facet of the game."

Tonight, Murphy will feature in the latest episode of the the AIB-produced The Toughest mini documentary series, chronicling the week he spent last month with Clermont Auvergne

Having trained with the French Top-14 rugby side's first team alongside recent French internationals Wesley Fofana, Morgan Parra and Aurélien Rougerie, he was surprised to see that almost nothing was done without a ball.

"Every day, they are building up minutes, minutes, minutes and hours, hours, hours with the ball," he observed.

"At the end of the day, it is a game of football and you have to play with the ball.

Skills

"And you have to be improving your skills.

"I do think, as much as the game has got to a certain level physically, and it is going and pushing, and teams and players are getting fitter, stronger and quicker, games are still being won by the most skilful teams over the course of the year.

"Teams with the highest amount of skill still win."

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