GAA Football

Anthony Molloy: Donegal are a young and inexperienced team but they can beat Tyrone

Donegal youngsters Stephen Hutchinson and his five-year old cousin Michael Murphy (left), who went on to become only the second Donegal man to lift the Sam Maguire in 2012, pictured in the summer of 1993 with Anthony Molloy, who led Donegal to their first ever All-Ireland title in 1992
Gerry McLaughlin

THERE is a lovely picture of Anthony Molloy after Donegal's Sam Maguire Cup win along with two of his greatest fans.

The little boys look really chuffed to be beside their hero during a summer visit to the Gleann Cholm Cille district in 1993, after Molloy had led Donegal to their first ever All-Ireland title the previous year.

Those little boys were Stephen Hutchinson and his five-year old cousin Michael Murphy, who would go on to become only the second Donegal man to lift the Sam Maguire in 2012.

The symmetry is not lost on Molloy. He firmly believes that Donegal’s young and inexperienced side can beat Tyrone in Clones on Sunday.

‘That was a lovely picture and it was taken in Glenties and Michael was only very young,'' said Molloy.

“But who would have thought that you were looking at two All-Ireland winning captains?”

Life comes full circle and these days Anthony Molloy is a huge fan of Murphy.

“Quite simply he is Donegal’s greatest ever player and we have had some good ones but that is my firm opinion,'' he added.

“Michael has everything, attitude, ability, accuracy and most of all exceptional leadership qualities.

“He was captain at only 22 and has led us since 2011 which says it all and he has never lost his hunger and is always trying to improve.

“All the lads on the squad look up to him and he can bring people with him in his own quiet but very determined way.

“He is quiet by nature and shuns the limelight but always leads by example.

“And apart from these obvious qualities, he can catch, kick frees, tackle and plays from square to square and is definitely the complete package.”

And, unlike last year, Murphy is injury free which is a huge bonus for Tir Conaill, according to Molloy: “I saw him injuring his ankle against Ardara last year and he never really recovered from it.

“But he would never complain because there is loads of character there.''

So can Murphy and Donegal prevail? As usual Molloy is candid.

“I have no doubt that Donegal can beat Tyrone even though this is a young and relatively inexperienced team,'' he said.

“We can’t dwell on that defeat of Tyrone in the NFL but I think there is still a fair bit of hurt there from last year when we left an Ulster title behind us.

“And of course Tyrone will be very keen to go even further this year.”

But Molloy believes it: “will not be pretty in Clones. Both teams will be packing their defences so it could all come down to a refereeing decision, some sort of a card, a moment of individual brilliance (remember Sean Cavanagh last year)

“But we gave away frees too easily last year so I am sure that is something that will be worked on.”

However “pace” could be a real ace for this young team he stresses: “There are so many young fast players like Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Jason McGee, Michael Carroll, Eoin McHugh, Michael Langan, Jamie Brennan and now Kieran Gillespie is back and fully fit.

“These lads may be young but they are used to winning at underage and will be raring to go.”

In some way they are not unlike quite a young Donegal team studded with Under 21’s in 1983 that Brian McEniff took to an Ulster title.

If anything, this Donegal team is even younger, but Molloy feels that they are more than ready.

And he agrees that Michael Murphy does come on for some unwarranted attention.

“That is because he is so big and strong that he finds it harder to get frees,'' states Molloy.

“But you tend to find that with big men.”

On Tyrone, he is not sure if Sean Cavanagh poses quite the same threat.

“He is still a great player but the years are there,'' feels Molloy.

“Both Tyrone and ourselves will be defending and attacking in droves so it could hinge on something opening up in the final minutes.

“That’s when the space opens up and we have the pace and power in this young side to punish Tyrone.

“It will be very close but I think we can do it.”

And Donegal can certainly prevail, especially if Michael Murphy is in a position to maintain normal service in front of his childhood hero from the early 1990s.




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