Michael Murphy wary of Meath challenge
By John Harrington
Donegal captain Michael Murphy is expecting a tough test from Meath in Phase One of the All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Finals this Sunday.
Donegal have already beaten Meath twice this year in competitive action already – an Allianz League Division 2 clash in Ballybofey and then the Division 2 Final in Croke Park – but Murphy says the nature of those contests has only made him respect the Royals all the more.
“On both occasions, I think it would be fair to say that Meath should have won both of the games,” said Murphy candidly.
“We were very fortunate to come out on top.
“In the League game in Ballybofey I think a last-minute goal that day brought us over the line and then in the League Final Meath were comprehensively ahead at half-time but with a couple of fortunate breaks in the second-half we managed to claw our way back into it.
“It's going to be a huge game for us. Since the Ulster Final we've just been really preparing and looking at our own game because we didn't know who our opposition would be.
“Between Declan (Bonner), Stephen (Rochford), Karl (Lacey), and Gary (Boyle) they've really pushed us on in that regard and we've taken learnings from the Ulster Final that we need to put right now going into the quarter-finals.”
Donegal won the Ulster Championship in very impressive fashion, recording convincing victories over Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Cavan, but Murphy isn’t inclined to put too much heed in those who have installed them as the most likely pretender to Dublin’s crown.
“Come here, at the moment it's very hard to find that balance,” he said.
“I remember mid-way through Division Two earlier this year we were beaten by Tipperary down in Thurles and people were writing us completely off, that we were completely gone, and even turning up for the Championship wouldn't have been the right thing to do.
“We knew at that time that we weren't as bad or as low as that. And, likewise now with the plaudits that are coming our way, we know we're not as good as that yet.
“We need to prove that we belong in the quarter-finals. We fought really hard to get us back into this opportunity.
“This time last year we were here too and we didn't come out the other side into the All-Ireland semi-final. In order for us to live up to the expectation that we have for ourselves we want to go one better this year and get out of this group.
“That's really the challenge for us over the next four weeks and three games.”
Murphy isn’t looking beyond the challenge of Meath this weekend, but admits the prospect of also having to play Mayo and Kerry in the quarter-finals is a motivating challenge.
“Yeah, outside of Dublin they've been two of the best teams in the country over the last ten years. Kerry with the tradition they have are always going to be a formidable force.
“When they get to Croke Park they always tend to have an extra pep in their step so that's going to be massive challenge.
“And Mayo, they're storming back into thing. And I know with the injuries they have they'll all be cleared up by the time we roll around to Castlebar.
“I suppose the learning that we did get when the Super Eights were in their infancy last year was that the first game is a huge one.
“If you lose the first game it puts you on the back-foot right away. So that's all that's been in our thoughts over the last three weeks, this first game, and trying to get off to the correct start that's needed.
“That'll be a huge task, but if you're good enough you'll get through the Super Eights and if you're not good enough then you'll be out of the Championship.”