WHEN BRIAN MCIVER took a call from Francie Martin in 2006 asking him to take a look at a secondary school student who was showing promise, the then Donegal manager was, at first, unsure.
When he saw the young forward in action, he knew he had something special on his hands. Martin was managing Glenswilly at the time and was one of McIver’s selectors. Derryman McIver could scarcely believe what greeted him that night in Castlefin.
“I thought there and then he’d be an absolute star,” McIver said later of that first glimpse of Michael Murphy’s talents. McIver knew before Ireland knew that the shy-yet-fearsome 17-year-old was destined for the top.
“The first time he was involved with us he was still at school. He has just kicked on from there. I knew his leadership qualities would come through.
“He really thought about his game. If there were wee things that he didn’t do well in a game, he’d come and talk about it. His attitude was always top class. I’m delighted that he’s recognised now as one of the best players in the country.”
Ahead of the 2016 Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup campaign, which starts on Sunday with a game against Down in Ballybofey, Murphy is poised to make his 100th Donegal appearance.
|MICHAEL MURPHY||stats compiled by Fr Seán Ó Gallchóir|
|2005||Won Buncrana Cup (Ulster U-16)|
|2006||Won Ulster M.F.L. /M.F.C.|
|2007||On Donegal M.F.C. team|
|2007-2010||On Donegal U-21 F.C. team|
|2009||Won Railway Cup||won GAA Young Player of the Year|
|2010||Won McKenna Cup||Played for Ireland v Australia in International rules|
|Won Ulster U-21 F.C.|
|2011||Won Ulster SFC & NFL Division 2 (Captain)|
|On Ireland team v Australia||won Donegal SFC with Glenswilly|
|2012||Won All Ireland SFC & Ulster SFC||All-Star|
|won Sigerson Cup with DCU|
|2013||Won Railway Cup||Captain of Ireland v Australia in international rules|
|Donegal Player of the Year||won Donegal SFC with Glenswilly|
|2014||Won Ulster S.F.C.||All-Star|
|Captain of Ireland v Australia|
He is only 26, but has already chalked up 99 appearances, in which he has contributed 25 goals and 347 points.
Murphy’s debut was unglamorous, a January McKenna Cup clash against UUJ on January 7 2007.
McIver at the time had described the conditions at Ballyshannon’s Fr Tierney Park as ‘as bad as I’ve ever seen’.
It was in the 50th minute when the board went up and Murphy was introduced, replacing Denis Boyle.
He scored a free as Donegal won 1-6 to 1-4. The following week, he made his first start at Casement Park where he scored another free as Donegal beat Antrim.
His introduction to Championship football was in a qualifier against Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon later that year, scoring a cracking first-half goal.
His career has spiraled since. Even in the dark days, his talent was evident and he was named as the GAA’s Young Player of the Year in 2009.
Murphy, an All-Star winner in 2012 and 2014, was named as Donegal captain in 2011 by Jim McGuinness having skippered the Under-21s in 2010.
Last year, at the outset of his managerial tenure, Rory Gallagher described Murphy as ‘the perfect captain’.
The Glenswilly man’s career has already been pockmarked by moments of genius, but there remains that one moment that stands above any other.
All through 2012, the screensaver on his iPhone was a picture of the Sam Maguire Cup.
September 23rd 2012 was Murphy’s date with destiny, the day he fulfilled a childhood dream
Just 139 seconds into the All-Ireland final against Mayo, Karl Lacey delivered an inch perfect right-footed pass to the edge of the square.
A little less than four second later, the ball crashed into the Hill 16 net. The move began in the Canal End-Cusack Stand corner when Eamon McGee snuffed out Alan Dillon’s ball that was intended for Cillian O’Connor.
Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh briefly held possession before Lacey seized the moment and sent a raking ball into the Glenswilly man’s paws.
“If you give a ball like that to the man-child, there is only going to be one result,” was Joe Brolly’s inimitable take on the passage.
For a brief second it seemed as if Lacey’s knifing run would continue, but he struck gold when he launched the arrow from the ‘45.
Murphy must have felt as if red wine was coursing the veins of his imposing frame as he fetched and turned poor Kevin Keane in the one fell swoop before planting a venomous shot past David Clarke.
Bedlam in the stands. From Murphy? Just the focused gaze of a man in the zone.
Although entering his tenth year at senior level this weekend, the 100th appearance and the piece of Donegal Parian China he’ll be presented are merely the latest stepping stones.
|2007||3||1 – 3|
|2008||3||3 – 8|
|2009||6||0 – 34|
|2010||2||0 – 8|
|2011||6||1 – 11|
|2012||6||1 – 17|
|2013||5||0 – 16|
|2014||6||0 – 21|