GAA Football

Danny Hughes: Allstars not the perfect barometer

Michael Murphy after Glenswilly's victory in last Sunday's Donegal SFC final  
Picture by Michael O'Donnell 

SO MICHAEL MURPHY picked up a man-of-the-match award, helped Glenswilly to a one-point win and sponsors the very championship Glenswilly won last Sunday afternoon.

It got me thinking as to how important Murphy is to Donegal. He is probably - even at this early stage - the best footballer to have ever come out of Donegal. Murphy has been a victim of misfortune since 2012 with his preferred and ultimately best position at full-forward never really afforded to him, such is the need to have him plugging other holes in the dyke with Donegal.

When you look at Paul Flynn with four Allstars and Murphy with just two, you find yourself thinking how ‘just’ is the selection process for Allstars anyway? It is certainly a brilliant feeling to get individual awards. Whether this is a man-of-the-match award or an Allstar, every winner must have a certain selfish streak to play at the top level of his sport.

This dark side will never form the front and centre in the GAA changing room. It’s almost apologetic for some players, perhaps a trait that most Irish people inherit. I would admit I was hungry to win as winning was my obsession, it was my drug. This was not enough at times, so whether I liked to admit it or not, it became about winning and also being the best on the field - man-of-the-match.

I couldn’t help how I felt. If I had a stinker and we won, I wasn’t happy with myself. In fact, it would take me until the next match to prove to myself that it was a ‘one-off’. Then I was happy for another couple of hours, even stretching to a day in some cases.

This obsession with winning seeped into training too. On many occasions, a bad training session for club and county would have resulted in silence all the way home, added to the fact that a fight I maybe started before we left the field had left everyone on edge.

I tried the positive talk. Didn’t work. Relaxing before games. Didn’t work. I figured out that I needed to play on the edge, exactly where I started in the first place. Acceptance of this fact for me was probably easy, but for those who I played with and alongside it was probably a bit harder. Unintentionally, I could be a real asshole to play alongside, never happy, always demanding more.

If I had played alongside me, I wouldn’t have liked me at all. In 99 per cent of cases, when the match was over or training had finished, I forgot I had even had a problem with anything or anyone.  I am not sure they felt that way though.

When I look at Murphy, I see that edge on him every time he plays. Some players need to be like that and some don’t. Paul Galvin was crucified because of it, but Galvin knew that if it wasn’t there, he wasn’t ready for a match.

You take Michael Murphy out of Donegal and they are an altogether different proposition. There is no doubt that Murphy is a better all-round player than Paul Flynn if you were asked to choose between the two, but that Allstars count offers a different gauge.

The Allstars are not an accurate reflection of the 15 best players in the country at this time because they try to accommodate players in positions that they never even played in.

I think the 10 best players in the country at the minute would perhaps be easier to gauge. Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton is a given, one of the best of modern times. James McCarthy is a tough and quality footballer and deserves the credit for keeping the Dublin backline relatively stable, even with the departure of Rory O’Carroll.

Mayo’s Lee Keegan has been one of the best defenders in the last few years and a quality footballer to boot. Michael Murphy is a one-man team almost, probably a bit harsh on Ryan McHugh who wouldn’t be far away from making the top 10 best players at the present time.

Dublin’s Brian Fenton may have been plucked from nowhere three seasons ago, but he would inspire any young footballer to keep pushing for greatness. Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan proves the theory that you don’t need to be part of the so-called top six to have a chance of being an Allstar.

He follows a long list of players such as Wexford’s Mattie Forde and Westmeath’s Dessie Dolan who win games by themselves week-in, week-out without the same degree of exposure.

Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly has become one of the best Ulster players of the last few years and is a future captain when Sean Cavanagh steps away. Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly has pulled his club and county to All-Ireland titles and, in the last few years, has been the best player in the country by a mile.

Dublin’s Cian O’Sullivan has everything (unfortunately). He not only scrubs up well, but is probably the best centre-half in the country. I would love to say his personality stinks, but he is a great lad off the field too as I worked with him in the bank for a few years.

Monaghan’s Conor McManus is one of the best forwards around. Yes, the Farneymen have probably exceeded expectations the last few years, but this man alone carried them there and on current form, is the best to have ever played for Monaghan. 

 

Kilcoo's Ulster club championship victory over Scotstown at Clones was no mean feat 

WE HAVEN'T have much to shout about over the last few years in Down.

However, Kilcoo’s win over Scotstown was a brilliant result for the county. To win at Clones in the manner they did was no easy feat and, with Crossmaglen now gone, Kilcoo can be confident that they have the sufficient firepower to deliver an Ulster title.

Jerome Johnston’s injury is a big blow to himself as he has battled back from a bad shoulder injury, but Kilcoo will need him back as the competition progresses and, without doubt, he will be a big player for them.

I wish him a speedy recovery. 

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