MICHAEL Murphy has dismissed suggestions that Donegal’s hard slog through the Ulster Championship resulted in their downfall in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo.
With Donegal having already played Tyrone, Armagh, Derry and Monaghan, as well as a qualifier against Galway, theirs was a significantly tougher path to the last eight than their opponents, who had just two games – against Galway and Sligo – since their draw with Donegal in the League back in April.
A dejected Murphy (pictured above), speaking after Donegal’s 2-13 to 0-11 defeat by Mayo on Saturday evening in Croke Park, insists that the front door remains the only way to head for the business end of the season.
“It wasn’t a factor at all,” Murphy said after being asked if the hard road had been a factor.
“That’s the way the thing panned out. You can make what you want of the provincial championships, but the Ulster Championship is an extremely valuable competition.
“We’ve enjoyed success in it in recent years and we’ll be back to challenge for it next year because it’s one that we value.
“We came up short this year, but it’s back to the drawing board. We’ll keep battling and keep the flag flying.”
Murphy scored eight of Donegal’s points on Saturday evening, but the captain was knocked for six with the concession of the two goals, particularly Aidan O’Shea’s just before half-time.
Murphy said: “We were playing rightly up until that. We were motoring along and things were doing okay, but the goals either side of half-time knocked the stuffing out of us and Mayo pushed on.
“We were battling on defensively. Mayo were getting a few good scores, but the timing of the goals really turned the game. A four-point swing at half-time is a big lead and for them to kick on with the other goal they pulled away.”
The second goal, a somewhat fortunate one by wing-back Lee Keegan, meant the game was up for Donegal.
Murphy said: “It meant we had to push on and look for goals. When you do that, there’s always a danger that a team like Mayo will chip away at you and they did that in the second half.
“Mayo have quality players all over the pitch to do harm – and they did that.”