FORMER DONEGAL midfielder Neil Gallagher says Joe Brolly was on the money when he called Michael Murphy ‘the most influential Ulster footballer of his generation’.
Before Donegal’s Ulster SFC semi-final, Brolly was engaged in a debate with fellow RTÉ panellist Colm O’Rourke about Murphy’s influence.
At one stage in the brief discussion, O’Rourke likened Brolly to Nigel Farrage or Boris Johnson on drugs when he’d keep saying things like that.’
“He has drifted out to midfield and ended up giving and taking short bandpasses,” O’Rourke said. “…Greatness must be dictated by impact on very big championship games in Croke Park.”
O’Rourke reeled a list of games in which he felt Murphy hadn’t played well, but Brolly added: “You’ve a bee in your bonnet about Murphy and you can never give him credit.”
Gallagher says he was in disbelief when he watched the clip on social media that night.
“I don’t know where Colm O’Rourke was coming from because, sharing a changing room with him, I’ve never seen a better player playing the game,” Gallagher told Donegal Daily/Donegal Sport Hub.
“I couldn’t understand it. The influence that he has on the team…if Colm O’Rourke came to one training session and saw the way he trains and plays, the way he dedicates himself to the team and to the whole thing, he would have a different opinion.
“He has been captain for nine years now. Most other players would go and focus on their own thing, but he’s taking the leadership and captaincy role. He thrives on it. He’s not undervalued by anyone who knows footballers and who knows great Gaelic footballers.”
Murphy has played 142 times for Donegal and has been county captain since being appointed by Jim McGuinness in 2011.
The Glenswilly man is Donegal’s top scorer of all time having posted 29 goals and 519 points (606 points).
Murphy turned in big displays of graft and was at the controls for both of Donegal’s Championship wins – against Fermanagh and Tyrone – so far this year.
“He has influence on the whole game and the whole team,” Glenswilly team-mate Gallagher said.
“Murphy just controlled things from around the middle. He had an exceptional game. With Jamie (Brennan) and Patrick (McBrearty) going so well inside, maybe himself he doesn’t maybe think he has to take on as much of a scoring threat. The work-rate he goes through…everything he touched in the last two games was just brilliant.
“Tyrone would put a big focus on Murphy, but he’d just think: ‘Right, I’ll hang back here and let Eoghan Ban take a run and the space will open up’.
“Listen, against Fermanagh when he wanted to step on the gas, he did it.
“Something you have to look as well at is that he is so tightly marked. They’re marking him so much and giving him dog’s abuse. Sometimes because he’s such a big, strong man, you feel he doesn’t get as many frees.
“Those young boys and even the older boys like Frank McGlynn and Neil McGee, they take their cue from Michael.”
Gallagher, a two-time All-Star winner, says Donegal’s four-point win over Tyrone in Cavan was ‘right up there’ in comparison to the county’s best wins of recent years.
He said: “It was a great performance.
“The fitness levels are a credit to the boys doing the fitness work with them. In a tight game, when you’re a couple of points up, it’s maybe easier to be fitter.
“It’s right up there, the fact coming into it once the league finishes, you don’t pay much attention to it, but Tyrone were still playing in Division One and had more competitive games. Donegal had a good finish to the League, but you still didn’t really know there they were at.
“Tyrone were definitely favourites. For the boys to put in a performance like that was definitely right up there. The pace they had, their decision making, even after losing Jason McGee, shows that the backup in the squad.
Gallagher won Ulster finals in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as the 2012 All-Ireland, with Donegal.
The captain in 2007 when Donegal won the Division One League crown, Gallagher still looks back with regret at the missed titles – and says there’s no chance of the class of now resting on any laurels after putting Tyrone to the sword.
He said: “From our point of view, we should have had more. 2015 and 2016 were ones that got away from us. It’s a much changed team, but you still have good experience there.
“Even with beating Tyrone…You still haven’t won anything. A lot of ones mentioned to us about the All-Ireland final in 2014, but I don’t think about it because we lost it. Michael, Declan (Bonner) and those boys will be just focussed on winning the final.”Tags: