Corey key to success: Monaghan's man-marker snuffs out threat of Murphy - again
One of the most astonishing statistics being bounced around the place since Monaghan's Ulster final victory over Donegal, concerns the impact of Donegal's captain, Michael Murphy.
Against Tyrone with his contribution from the dead ball, and Armagh for his ability to control a game entirely as he pleased, Murphy earned a mountain of praise. This was Murphy's fifth consecutive Ulster final. In his first in 2011 he scored two points from play and a penalty as Donegal ended 19 years without the Anglo-Celt Cup.
The following year with Down as final opponents, he registered a single point from play.
However, in the last three finals, Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has placed Clontibret's Vinny Corey on him in a man-marking role. And in those three games, Murphy has failed to score once from play.
Standing outside the dressing rooms on Sunday, Corey shared the credit for the shut-out of Donegal's most important player.
"It's always tough," he began.
"I suppose defence nowadays is not just one man, the rest of your team mates help you out as well.
"There are loads of boys dropping back to help you out. As we know, quality forwards nowadays, if they get space on you at all, they are going to come out on top if they get ball."
Questions will be asked about Murphy's positioning. He has played as an auxiliary centre-back, both protecting and freeing up Karl Lacey. However, while closely marked against Tyrone and not marked at all against Armagh, he still did not score from play. His only scores from play in this Championship came against Derry, two long-range efforts that matched his reputation for stepping up when the pressure is on. However, any team that can curb Murphy's influence on a game feel they are halfway to victory. It gives them a major boost to feel they are - to borrow a Munster rugby phrase they used in relation to taking Sébastien Chabal out of the game - able to 'hammer the hammer.'
In the final 10 minutes of the Ulster final, Murphy was instructed to get forward, but he was under-utilised. The one glimpse of potential came in the 64th minute when a high, crossfield ball came from Mark McHugh, Murphy held off Corry and although it spilled, he flicked it to Ryan McHugh in a shooting position. McHugh was adjudged to have touched it on the ground and referee David Coldrick gave a free out.
"When you are marking a player like Michael Murphy you have to be prepared for anything," continued Corey of the Glenswilly man's threat.
"He could come into full-forward for the whole half, he could come out. You have to be adaptable and you have to just move with him.
"He dictates it, wherever he goes you have to go with him yourself.
"Either or, he has shown that he can do a lot of damage out the field, he has shown that he can do damage in full-forward. You can't let him get off the hook if he goes out the field."
Corey admitted to getting caught up in the emotion of some remarkable post-match celebrations. "It's massive," he said. "Especially for the older players, it has been a long hard road and a lot of disappointments. For some of us it is our fifth final. We didn't want to just win one out of five, we wanted to get another."
Echoing Malachy O'Rourke who mentioned that they felt their first win in 2013 was somehow tarnished by the narrative around Donegal's injury woes going into that game, Corey continued: "Any time you win one, people will always have doubts that the team wasn't up to it. We came here last year, and felt we had let ourselves down. The quality of our play wasn't what it should be.
"It's nice to get back here and tag another one on, to show what we are about."
And as for the 'Farney Army' chanting 'We want Sam' as the team stood on the winner's podium in the Gerry Arthurs Stand, he added: "There's always a hunger in Monaghan supporters.
"You could meet a Monaghan supporter in February and they might ask you about it. I think all supporters are the same. But once you get a foothold in your own province… by getting to three finals you sort of have a foothold in your own province and then you have to start looking further."
Monaghan have their All-Ireland quarter-final on August 8, against either Tyrone or Sligo, or even Galway should they manage to get past a Donegal team who will be a wounded animal.