Rory Gallagher believes that GAA referees are clamping down on the ‘treatment’ dished out to the game’s big players.
The Donegal manager was speaking as Dublin officials were set to go into an appeal hearing against the 12-week suspension handed down to Diarmuid Connolly.
Picture caption: Donegal manager Rory Gallagher at a press conference in Ballybofey prior to Sundays clash with local rivals Tyrone. Picture by North West Newspix
The Dublin star’s ban came about after he was cited for ‘minor physical interference’ with linesman Ciaran Brannigan in the recent game against Carlow. Connolly’s frustration appeared to arise from the close attentions of several Carlow players.
Donegal face Tyrone in an Ulster semi-final and Gallagher is anticipating that the likes of Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh will come in for close attention from the Red Hands.
“It has happened over the years,” Gallagher said.
“Peter Canavan was a small man but he came in for a lot of treatment. You have Michael, Kieran Donaghy, Aidan O’Shea, big men who had to work hard to win frees.
“Referees are smart. They talk and they communicate. They have noticed that in the last year. They have noticed that the big players are being targeted. Diarmuid Connolly isn’t as big, but he comes in for a lot of attention.
“All star players get that treatment, but I do believe that referees are better equipped to deal with it now.”
Gallagher has praised Murphy’s discipline in spite of the Donegal captain being on the end of some unprecedented treatment. Two years ago, Tyrone defender Justin McMahon practically spent an entire game eye-balling Murphy – a tactic that was repeated when the two met in the League earlier this year.
That night in Ballybofey, McMahon was eventually booked by David Coldrick – the referee who takes charge of this Sunday’s game in Clones – and subsequently withdrawn by Mickey Harte.
Gallagher said: “Michael is a big player and everybody knows that. There are very few days that Michael goes out where he doesn’t get tight marking.
“It is probably a relief sometimes for him to get to play club football, where there are two or three on him. It is something that he rises the challenge to. He doesn’t expect anything easy in life. Tyrone have a distinct style of play where they don’t mark a lot of players, but he is one that they do mark.
“It’s something that he is used to dealing with. He doesn’t complain too often. he gets on with it and that’s just the way he plays.”
Donegal captain Murphy can be expected to line out at midfield on Sunday and Gallagher has praised the Glenswilly man’s improved tackling.
Murphy had been known to be erratic in his tackling, but Gallagher said: “We feel he is exceptionally disciplined. He wasn’t the best tackler a couple of years ago, but he has worked really hard on that. He doesn’t ask players to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.
“He looks at his own game, he takes on his own coaching and he doesn’t get enough credit for the way he has improved his tackling. He was picking up cards two years ago, it was less last year and much less this year – that’s a sign of someone interested in self-improvement.”
Murphy limped out of a recent club game, but any fears that he was injured were quickly quelled by Donegal physio Cathal Ellis, who examined the player at his home.
Gallagher says Murphy is as fit as he’s ever been.
He said: “He is very focussed. He understood at the start of the year where he was at and where the team was at as well. He knew his responsibility and he has carried it out very well.”
Patrick McBrearty will return to the Donegal starting XV for Sunday’s semi-final.
The Kilcar man scored 1-2 off the bench in their landslide quarter-final win over Antrim last month. McBrearty had been inhibited by a quad injury sustained against Roscommon
However, McBrearty is poised to be included from the start this weekend.
Gallagher said: “We would very much expect that he would start. He is in our starting plans, he is a very talented footballer.”
Kieran Gillespie is back in contention for Donegal after recovering from a hamstring injury while Eamonn Doherty is back from suspension.Tags: