GAA Football

Donegal ‘in a bit of a hole' says Michael Murphy

Donegal’s Michael Murphy (right) challenges Dublin’s John Small during Saturday night’s NFL Division One match at Croke Park
Paul Keane

DONEGAL captain Michael Murphy admits they’re in a “bit of a hole” after three straight NFL defeats but insisted it’s far from panic stations.

Rory Gallagher’s side have shown the best and worst of themselves so far in this season’s campaign, streaking out of the blocks with three wins before losing the next three.

Donegal’s latest setback came at Croke Park last weekend when Dublin outscored them by 1-5 to 0-1 in the closing 25 minutes to run out 1-10 to 0-7 winners.

Murphy said the loss has increased the stakes for Donegal ahead of Sunday’s final round tie in Monaghan though, in reality, it’s far more important for their relegation-threatened hosts to win in Castleblayney.

The powerful Glenswilly man will be available for that encounter despite his dismissal against Dublin which was for two yellow cards.

He said it’s an opportunity to end the campaign on a high and, should they win, secure a semi-final place, so all is clearly not lost despite the poor recent form.

“It’s a big game, without a doubt,” said Murphy. 

“That’s what the League throws at you. It can throw you a situation where you’re riding on the crest of a wave one minute and that’s the great thing about it because you can build momentum and then you might have to pull yourself out of a bit of a hole when defeats happen week on week.

“That’s where we’re at now, we’re in a wee bit of a hole and a quandary. We have to pull ourselves out of it and I suppose going down to Monaghan and going to play a team that we’re very familiar with, that’s always going to be a difficult thing, especially in Castleblayney.

“But it’s a huge challenge and that’s where you want to be. It’s an opportunity to put things right so close after the disappointment of the Dublin game and that’s what we’re going to aim for.

“As I say, it’s about getting a performance, getting players ready to play in the Championship and to step up in the Championship.

“We knew when the three victories happened at the start of the league that it wasn’t as euphoric and as unbelievable as everybody was making it out to be.

“I don’t think the three defeats that we’ve had now is absolute doom and gloom and us down in despair either.

“At the end of the day, there’s huge learning in league games. There was massive learning in the Roscommon game and there was massive learning in the Dublin game, massive learning in the Mayo game.

“There was just massive learning in every game that we’ve played and we have to take that learning from the Kerry game too and move on towards the Championship with it because that’s fast approaching now.”

Colm McFadden returned to match day action for the first time this year against Dublin. So he will come into the reckoning for the Monaghan trip and Murphy reckons there’s plenty of other positives on the personnel front too.

“There were still some very good performances there against Dublin,” said the 2012 All-Ireland winning captain. “I thought Ryan (McHugh) and Eoin (McHugh) were fantastic. Ciaran (Gillespie) too, they’re all huge plusses, for them to come in there and do that and to add to our Championship squad and push things on is what we want.

“So there’s huge plusses but at the end of the day you’re also disappointed we didn’t get over the line against Dublin.”

A fourth straight loss for Donegal this weekend would leave them with a sour taste ahead of the Championship and, just as significant, a lengthy 10-week break until they play Fermanagh or Antrim in the Ulster quarter-finals.

“There’s always value in an extra game in the League and getting to the semi-finals,” said Murphy. “Maybe because there is more of a gap (before the Championship) but I don’t think there’s any greater added incentive in doing it this year or doing it last year or doing it next year. 

“To get into a semi-final in a national championship would always be a huge thing and a brilliant thing.”

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