No one can accuse Donegal skipper Michael Murphy of not having his feet firmly planted on the ground.
The remarkably mature 23-year-old may be gearing up to lead his side out against Cork in the All-Ireland football semi-final on Sunday but he will do so fortified by a liberal dose of reality.
“Look, we had a hell of a lot of luck in getting past Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final and then Kerry came back strongly at us in the closing stages of our All-Ireland quarter-final so we have every reason to be very alert on Sunday,” insists the Glenswilly clubman.
Murphy’s stable, focussed outlook is mirrored in a side whose intensity, commitment and ambition have drawn admiration from friend and foe alike.
And his refreshing honesty hints at someone who is delighted to be on the cusp of an All Ireland final appearance but is acutely conscious that a bad throw of the dice could jettison manager Jim McGuinness' well-laid plans.
“While we maybe did just enough to get over the line against both Tyrone and Kerry, I don’t think that our performance in either of those games would do to get us a win against Cork,” pronounces Dublin-based university student Murphy, “Paul Durcan’s leg deflected that shot from Martin Penrose to safety in the dying seconds against Tyrone while Karl Lacey’s late point proved the insurance score against Kerry but, let’s be honest, we lived dangerously in both games.”
Murphy has followed Cork’s progress with particular interest as he knows some of their players and is a self-confessed admirer of their style.
“Cork are big and athletic but they are also very skilful. They have been knocking on the door in recent years and deservedly won the All Ireland two years ago and have claimed the last three league titles. They have already won this year’s Munster title and you could hardly ask for a greater level of consistency that that,” points out Murphy.
Donegal’s convoluted system devised by manager McGuinness has proved an insoluble conundrum to the vast majority of the sides they have encountered over the course of the past two seasons but Murphy is convinced that Cork may not be found wanting when it comes to achieving penetration and racking up scores.
“I know that their manager Conor Counihan is a deep thinker on the game and I believe think that he will feel he can combat our strategy.
“It is worth remembering, too, that Cork are a good man-marking side. They have fierce competitors like Graham Canty, Noel O’Leary, Ray Carey and others who will stick close to the player they have been allotted and make life very difficult for him,” insists Murphy.
Regarded as the quintessential target man, Murphy has been playing rather deeper of late although he may form a twin-spearhead along side Colm McFadden against the Leesiders.
“Colm has been getting a lot of scores for us this year and we both recognise that we would not be getting scores were it not for the good work being done by players further out the field.
“It is not going to be easy to win either first or second-phase possession against Cork and our work-rate will be tested to the full in this game,” insists Murphy.
Yet for all his healthy respect for the Leesiders, the vision of leading out a team in the All Ireland final that has already defied the pundits by claiming back to back Ulster titles remains a pretty alluring incentive.
“We know what we have to do to win on Sunday. We feel we have it within ourselves to deliver a big performance and prove that we can be worthy All Ireland finalists,” adds Murphy.