AS HE STOOD over a 76th minute free, his side trailing by a point, Michael Murphy’s mind briefly wandered back to the opening quarter – but now his sights are firmly trained on Mayo.
From practically the exact spot on the other end of Croke Park, Murphy was off-cue in the 14th minute.
Murphy was majestic for Donegal as they went toe-to-toe with Kerry in an epic Super 8s clash in headquarters.
It was fitting, then, that the Glenswilly man arched over with the game’s final act to take his tally to 1-7 for the evening and earn Donegal a share of the spoils.
His namesake, Kerry’s Paul Murphy, had just popped the Kingdom back in front when he was given the chance again. This time, he converted with ease.
Cool as a breeze as he tucked over, Murphy admitted that he was mindful of his earlier miss.
“Aye, it was just in the vicinity and felt I’d take it out of the hands,” Murphy said.
“I missed one in the first half from a very similar scenario, so yeah, it was just good to have done it, it would have been disappointing to come out with nothing from the game.
“I had missed a bad one in the first half, a very, very poor one, so it was good to do.
As he sized up his target at the old Canal End, Murphy’s thought process was simple.
‘Just get it over the bar.’
Murphy, in his 150th game in Donegal colours, converted, and Donegal now head for Castlebar on Saturday-week to dance with Mayo. To the victor, a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals and to the defeated, the winter months and reflection will beckon.
Fate plays its hand in mysterious ways sometimes and Donegal go to MacHale Park for a huge game with Stephen Rochford – a man who guided his native Mayo to back-to-back All-Ireland finals – among their ranks.
“Listen, you use any edge you can,” Murphy said as he got ready for home on Sunday.
“Stephen has been an absolutely huge cog in the whole wheel, along with Gary (Boyle), Karl (Lacey) and Declan (Bonner) and everybody who is there, they’re challenging every single one of us and we’ll be getting back to be challenged again over the next couple of weeks.
“As I said, whatever edge you can, you will use, but both teams know each other fairly well and it’s going to come down to this game and whoever wants it most.
“So that’s the way it’s going to be.”
It was a strange sort of feeling at the conclusion of Sunday’s 1-20 apiece stalemate: Instant relief as Murphy salvaged a draw and yet the frustrating pangs having let a lead slip from their clutches.
It was a chaotic contest with the teams on level terms 16 times – seven of those from the 59th minute.
Murphy said: “We’re disappointed in a way. We had the lead, with a minute to go we were one up. Kerry are Kerry, in the way the game was ebbing and flowing.
“They came back and got the two points, and in the end we were happy to get the draw. But it doesn’t leave us much further either. We still have to go to Castlebar and win the game.
“But yeah, I suppose a point up with a minute to go, we would have wanted to close the game out. But not to be. It is what it is. Thanks be to God we pushed on, got the draw. It just keeps morale and everything high.”
Murphy also converted a 52nd minute penalty, after Daire Ó Baoill was upended by Stephen O’Brien.
“But everybody chipped in,” the Donegal captain pointed out.
“Oisin Gallen came in off the bench and got a couple of huge scores for us, we know it’s in him. We’re so delighted with him at the minute.
“Ryan McHugh was absolutely phenomenal and Paddy McBrearty was looking sharp, Jamie (Brennan) pushing on too, Michael Langan kicked a couple of big scores for us.
“We need everybody chipping in, that’s what you need, and everybody put their best foot forward.”Tags: