herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

murphy holds the key

SO imagine for one second in the world of fantasy GAA you become the manager of either Kerry or Donegal and you are given a choice ahead of next week's All-Ireland decider. You can have either one of James O'Donoghue or Michael Murphy as a part of your team.

Who do you pick? A tough choice!

Two special players of our generation who will both be hugely influential in their team's chances of All-Ireland success.

Both very different in style, physique and experience but both have the expectations of their counties weighing on their shoulders.

O'Donoghue has had to take up the mantle as Kerry's leading marksman in the absence of Colm Cooper.

It was hard not to think that 12 months ago the timing of his emergence was 'unfortunate' in a sense.

GOLDEN

It was easy to think that he may have missed a golden generation in the Kingdom and that a barren spell was on the horizon.

How wrong where we. Now he finds himself 70 minutes from his first All-Ireland medal.

In five games this year he has racked up a tally of 4-24 averaging more than seven points a game.

What makes his scoring return all the more impressive is that he has been a marked man since his heroic performance in the Munster final.

No matter what plans the opposition have put in place for him, he has torn up the script. His duel with Keith Higgins through the two semi-finals was a joy to behold.

Higgins did a fantastic job and limited the impact of O'Donoghue's influence to the best of his ability.

O'Donoghue, with such a low centre of gravity, is close to unmarkable when given the right supply of ball.

He is much more than a natural inside forward and the movement in the Kerry forward line is all designed with the objective of getting O'Donoghue on the ball in the right place at the right time.

His off-the-ball running and his desire to demand possession in deeper positions away from goal allows him to create scores and link the play when his space is closed down.

One wonders how Éamonn Fitzmaurice will utilise his talent in the All-Ireland final next weekend and his role will be critical in the Kerry forward line.

Fitzmaurice must also try to protect O'Donoghue in the build-up to the final. While the Legion clubman is mature beyond his years, the expectation around his performance could become highly weight-bearing.

Throw into the mix that Donegal have a track record of chewing up inside forwards and spitting them out means Fitzmaurice will need a Plan B for his key marksman.

Man child

By contrast, Murphy is a different type a player.

Known since his youth as a 'man child' he is now a seasoned veteran at the young age of 25.

Murphy is the ticking heartbeat in the Donegal team. His leadership qualities, his intelligence in possession, his awareness of players around him and his overall footballing talent put him in a different league to most of his counter-parts.

He sets the tone for Donegal and he controls Jimmy McGuinness' tactical style on the field of play.

Murphy came of age in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork in 2009 when he ploughed a lone furrow up front and kicked six points.

Since then he has evolved into an all-round footballer and his talents are utilised in many different forms.

The role that he now plays drifting between midfield and the full-forward line allows him to control his own level of consistent performance.

Thoroughbred

Whilst it can be easy to contain a big 'one-trick pony' full-forward, it is not as easy to contain a moving thoroughbred who will pull his direct opponent all over the pitch.

His work-rate and tackle count is a great example to any young player and it epitomises the saying "the harder you work, the luckier you get".

The role that Murphy played against the Dubs completely unhinged the Dublin defence causing them to lose their shape and Donegal took full advantage.

So which one of these special talents will come out on top next weekend?

It's O'Donoghue the apprentice up against Murphy the master of the trade. The student against the master.

Apprentices have to learn their trade and pass every test thrown at them. O'Donoghue has passed every exam with ­distinction to date but the final test waits. The Donegal ­defence!

The role that (Michael) Murphy played against the Dubs completely unhinged Dublin's defence causing them to lose their shape and Donegal took full advantage.

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