Tuesday 25 September 2018

If Messi can stay at the top, then so can Murphy...

Donegal’s Michael Murphy in action against Cork’s Aidan Walsh in last Saturday’s SFC qualifier. Photo: Sportsfile
Donegal’s Michael Murphy in action against Cork’s Aidan Walsh in last Saturday’s SFC qualifier. Photo: Sportsfile

The notion that Michael Murphy is waging a losing battle against his own body has been rubbished by his manager, Rory Gallagher.

And he cited one celebrated global example - Lionel Messi - to argue that precocious teenagers, as Murphy once was, can stay at the top of their game for well over a decade.

The Donegal skipper turns 27 today - the age when many players are coming into their prime.

But Murphy has been a force of nature since making his SFC debut, as a 17-year-old, in 2007. The hits have been coming hot and heavy as he roves between full-forward and midfield, and some observers have read his scoring returns this summer - 0-13 in five games, just two from play - as a sign of decline.

"I think it's crazy," Gallagher countered. "People get a notion and it develops and develops. Michael's in great condition. Absolutely great condition. He's moving really, really well.

"Yeah, he'd the ankle injury (pre-championship) - but he'd a fair volume of training done. I think people look for things that aren't there sometimes.

"You compare it to other sports," he expanded. "You see Messi - what age is he playing from? You see John O'Shea, now 34 - he was playing for Man United from 17, 18, 19.

"Michael knows how to look after his body, no more so than other people. He is playing a long time, there's no doubt about that, but I'm pretty sure he intends playing a lot longer."

Murphy's boss was also in the critics' firing line after the Ulster final defeat to Tyrone, but he insisted: "It isn't something that honestly takes too much out of me ... I'm not on social media by any stretch of the imagination. I got a text from someone to keep the chin up, so there must have been something out there."


Gallagher stressed that he was one part of a group that has been together a long time. "We stick together," he said. "We aren't perfect, but we try to do an awful lot of things right. We feel we did that. We live in the real world, we know where we are at."

As for the perception that Jim McGuinness has been having pot-shots at his successor, Gallagher demurred: "There are pundits and lots of players and former managers out there and they are entitled to their opinion, as you are and the people on the street. It is only one opinion; I don't get hung up on it and all of our group wouldn't."

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