By John Harrington
Michael Murphy has categorically ruled out making a return to inter-county football for Donegal.
Since Jim McGuinness was appointed Donegal manager for the 2024 season there has been no shortage of speculation that he would try to persuade Murphy to make a comeback.
But at today’s launch of GAAGO’s 2024 schedule, Murphy was adamant that at the age of 34 there’s no chance of him going back on his decision to retire from inter-county football.
“We chat a lot, we always do still chat a lot,” said Murphy when asked whether McGuinness had tried to persaude him to re-join the Donegal panel again.
“We chat every couple of weeks and since he came back in that hasn't stopped. For me, it hasn't changed since day one when I made the call to retire.
“That was it, I was out. Just because Jim has come back, as much as there's a loyalty there from me to him, and from me to Donegal, it still doesn't change in terms of the playing point of view.
“Definitely it was never a case of ever going back and that's still the case now. I'll try to give to Donegal in another way. I'm heavily involved with my own club and I'll get back involved with Donegal at underage now and give back in that way. No playing for me, it's job done, 100 per cent.”
Murphy won’t be part of the panel, but he’s confident that Donegal will be a much-improved team in 2024 under the stewardship of McGuinness, who led the Ulster county to the 2012 All-Ireland title.
“It's brilliant,” he said of McGuinness’ appointment. “The excitement levels in Donegal over the last couple of months have been really good. There's been a lot made of it and we've seen how last year was definitely a down year for the team but also a down year for the county.
“There were a lot of stories going on and a lot of negativity going around. In general, anyone you were meeting around the street was just down. It was a sad place to be around, Donegal, for the past year.
“Credit to Jim, he has put everything on the line. He's come in, he's grabbed it, he's taken it, and the excitement levels are back. You know things are going to be done well and done right and the lads who are there will have the best opportunity now to push forward.
“I think it will bring excitement not just to Donegal, but to the game too. Knowing the man Jim is, he's an innovator. He won't be crying about rule changes, he'll be looking to try to find a way to work within the rules and I just think it's great for the GAA in general.”
Murphy has tipped Dublin to retain the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in 2024, and believes most of their rivals have a lot to prove before they can be regarded as genuine contenders.
“I remember sitting here this time last year and we were thinking that Dublin were coming back to the pack,” said Murphy.
“They were down in Division Two and Kerry were after winning the All-Ireland. In other years it was nearly Dublin's All-ireland, but last year it felt like they were coming back to the pack.
“I think that was the case, but last season probably proved as it moved on that the likes of Galway, Mayo, Tyrone, Armagh, Monaghan... were they coming up to the top level?
“I think we saw last year that it was fairly evident that Galway and Mayo, who a lot of us thought would rattle the All-Ireland, didn't come up with the answers. They didn't come up with the right formula.
“Derry are probably the team outside of Dublin and Kerry who will feel confident that they're on the periphery. They will be feeling a bit hurt after that semi-final against Kerry last year so I think Derry are that team that are nearly there.
“You have Mickey Harte going in there now and the fireworks that that will bring in the first game in Ulster when Donegal play Derry. The Mayos, Galways, Armaghs, Monaghans, that kind of middle-tier, has to come up with some answers that will get them into that top bracket.”