herald

Sunday 8 December 2019

How Murphy's Law hurt Mayo

Rochford is latest Donegal link in Green and Red web

Michael Murphy could just as easily be lining out for Mayo today
Michael Murphy could just as easily be lining out for Mayo today

On June 8 last, the very night Donegal did a number on Tyrone, one of their retired All-Ireland heroes took to Twitter.

"One of the most important men in Donegal GAA history," tweeted Eamon McGee, "is the person who stationed Michael Murphy's dad in a Donegal barracks all them years ago."

Enough to bring a knowing smile to every face - unless you're from Mayo.

You see, Mick Murphy is a native of Corrimbla, just outside Ballina. Work as a Garda brought him to Donegal in the '70s, and the rest is history.

Reflecting on how close they have come this decade, rueful Mayo folk might well argue that the 68-year famine could have been eclipsed by a feast of All-Irelands if only Murphy Snr had been stationed in his native heath.

More pressingly, those fans must hope Murphy's peerless form doesn't send them over the edge in tonight's Super 8s decider in Castlebar (6pm).

Boasts

This is one of many links between Mayo and Donegal GAA. Paul Durcan, goalkeeper when Murphy lifted Sam in 2012, also boasts a Mayo dad whose Garda career took him to Donegal.

Paddy Prendergast, last surviving member of the last Mayo team to win the All-Ireland in 1951, actually played for Donegal before his native county.

Padraig Brogan had a Donegal dalliance in the early '90s before resuming his Mayo career, coming on as a sub against Donegal in the 1992 semi-final.

Martin Carney went in the opposite direction: he spent most of the '70s playing for Donegal but then another 11 seasons for his adopted Green and Red.

His affinity for both counties is clear; his admiration for Murphy palpable. He laughs at the suggestion that Murphy's Law has robbed Mayo. "Any rules of engagement, Murphy can play by them," says Carney. "If you want classy, balletic football, end-to-end football, he'll play it. If you want to bring it into a scrap, he'll play it by those rules as well.

"He can inspire players, he can set example ... he's everything."

Here's another more tangible loss to Mayo: tonight, Donegal coach Stephen Rochford will seek to plot the downfall of the team he managed until 2018.

"It's a big plus because of his three years with Mayo," says Carney. "He has to know the strengths and weaknesses of every player. He has to know, strategically, what they favour ... just his in-depth knowledge of Mayo, what makes them tick, what foibles they have."

Carney reckons that if Donegal maintain the level of form seen in their thrilling draw with Kerry, they should win. On the flip side, he believes there is a big game in Mayo, something not seen since the league final.

Result apart, he has one wish for tonight: "I don't give a damn what the circumstances (of his departure) were, the Mayo public owe a debt of gratitude to Rochford for what he did in these number of years that he was here. And I hope he gets a welcome and the respect he deserves."

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