Donegal boss Gallagher plays it cool over Murphy's role
Just where Donegal captain Michael Murphy will be positioned in tomorrow's All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo remains one of the more intriguing questions in advance of a game that many are predicting will be one of the best in the Championship to date.
For the greater part of this summer, Murphy has operated in the midfield zone, a cultured link between defence and attack, yet, as he showed, well capable of kicking points from distance.
But in last Saturday's qualifier win over Galway, the Glenswilly clubman took up residence in a rather more familiar role much closer to the opposition posts and proved a thorn in their side by pilfering his usual quota of points and executing the exquisite flicked pass that made Ryan McHugh's goal-scoring feat a formality.
Manager Rory Gallagher is certainly giving nothing away as he ponders his selection options having thrown Hugh McFadden, Eamon Doherty and Martin O'Reilly into his starting line-up at the 11th hour last weekend before deploying a raft of substitutes as the tie unfurled.
"In relation to last week's game, we had always intended to play Michael Murphy in the inside line," stated Gallagher.
"He's a big player out the field of course but we felt that if quality ball came in, he would get the touches. I thought his pass for Ryan's goal was excellent."
Murphy's contribution to Donegal's progress this term has been immense, just as it has been over the past five years. And his playing colleagues see him as a pivotal figure no matter where he will line out against Mayo.
Wing-back Frank McGlynn, a dynamic link between defence and attack, sees Murphy as instrumental to Donegal's ongoing bid for more honours.
"Michael is very effective on the edge of the square and he is equally effective in the middle of the field," maintained McGlynn. "His power and strength helps to give us the balance we need. He got a crucial point for us against Galway last weekend and he never fails to step up to the mark, especially when the heat is on."
Donegal, however, cannot afford to repeat the erratic shooting they displayed against Galway. Clear-cut scoring chances were missed and now manager Gallagher is urging greater accuracy.
Mayo have potent finishers in Aidan O'Shea, Cillian O'Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty and Gallagher acknowledges that his defenders will have to be on their toes.
"We know what happened against Mayo two years ago and we would not like to see that happen again," he stated pointedly.