Meath manager Andy McEntee questions Michael Murphy's influence on referees
Allianz Football League Division Two final: Donegal 1-17 Meath 1-15
WITH a rueful smirk, Meath boss Andy McEntee appeared to question Michael Murphy’s influence on referees after the Donegal talisman led his side to the Division Two title at the Royals’ expense.
Murphy hit 0-6, four of them from marks as the Tír Chonaill tactic of long, diagonal ball in his direction paid dividend across an excellent last 45 minutes.
Donegal’s first quarter though was horrendous and left them 1-6 to 0-1 down, with Mickey Newman causing similar destruction on the edge of the other square.
Murphy was booked during that fallow period and McEntee questioned after the game whether he should have been sent off for a couple of further fouls, most notably one on the Cusack Stand side.
“He was a huge factor. I don’t know what he walked away with score-wise but he’s a target-man. He… [pause] He’s very influential in a lot of areas.
“He’s just very influential all around the field. We have a fella gets two yellow cards [Shane Gallagher]. The boul Michael gets booked and ticked on maybe three or four occasions? That possible? Maybe I’m exaggerating but I doubt it.”
But by the same token, McEntee wasn’t shying away from the fact that beyond the first 20 minutes, his side had come off second best overall.
“I think if we’re brutally honest, Donegal probably started the second half stronger than us and looked the stronger team in the second half throughout. The goal [by Jamie Brennan], I’d like to see it again, but it was probably coming.
“They were running hard down the middle and my recollection is that we didn’t track the runners, and the goal comes. It’s back to the game in Ballybofey, they had momentum at that stage and we were finding it difficult to deal with them.”
Donegal boss Declan Bonner was forced into early remedial action when his side were eight down after 13 minutes, whipping off young full-back Brendan McCole and replacing him with Neil McGee, who was making his record-breaking 174th appearance for his county.
They dropped Leo McLoone back as a sweeper in front of him and Daire Ó Baoill filled that role in the second half, beyond which Meath’s attacking threat dissipated to the point where they scored just a single point after the 48th minute.
“We didn’t come out of the blocks to be honest. That opening quarter, we lacked real intensity, real energy,” said Bonner.
“Meath came out and really punished us, 1-6 to 0-1 up and they were causing us problems all over the park. I felt we got to grips with it.
“Cillian O’Sullivan and Mickey Newman were causing huge problems but once we got to grips with it before half-time, we got them in and I thought the second half performance was excellent.
“We had to steady the ship. Unfortunately for young Brendan, he’s had a very, very good league campaign and any number of changes could have been made in the early stages.
“Brendan will come back a better and stronger player. Neil came in and steadied the ship, he just added that experience coming in there. That was important for us.
“The way we play it, we want to play an expansive game but we also need to get cover and we weren’t getting it. Once we got it sorted out, I felt we started to get control of the game and second half, we bossed the game and some of our score-taking was top class.”