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Superb Murphy in a strong position after success in various roles


Good to talk: Michael Murphy is at centre of All-Stars debate

Good to talk: Michael Murphy is at centre of All-Stars debate

©INPHO/James Crombie

Good to talk: Michael Murphy is at centre of All-Stars debate

Fifteen GAA correspondents, including yours truly, will today be locked in intensive discussions about what players will comprise the 2014 Gaelic football All-Stars team.

There will be men with folders of statistics, player ratings and match reports. There will also be those with photographic memories with a highlight reel of fist-passes off the weak side that retained possession at crucial moments, or else dropped balls or poor first touches that left team mates in serious bother.

But backing it all up, is the sheer weight of evidence. Every year the long list of All-Star nominees are revealed and instantly the noise of empty vessels creates an intolerable din.

The debate of choice, at least up north, concerns how Donegal captain Michael Murphy is nominated for a place in the half-forward line, rather than at full-forward. To lend weight to their argument, the protestors will cite the curious case of 2005.

Not being part of the selection committee at the time, I have no hesitation in questioning just how Peter Canavan, the ultimate inside forward, won an All-Star at centre-forward ahead of Brian McGuigan, who was born to play at number 11 and nowhere else.

However, what happened in 2005 has nothing to do with what happens in 2014, since the formation of Gaelic football teams were so skewed by the philosophy of Donegal from 2011 to the present day.

The truth of the matter is that Murphy is named at half-forward because he spent the vast majority of the season as a deep-lying half-forward.

Let's break his Championship performances down. Against Derry he appeared up in the full-forward line for the first 15 minutes of the second half.

After spending the first half against Antrim frustrated by the tight marking of Sean McVeigh he spent the rest of the game at wing-back.

In the Ulster final, he spent the day at the head of the defensive arrowhead, only being picked up by marker Vinny Corey when he crossed the half-way line. He had a largely similar role against Armagh in the quarter-final, yet when Donegal needed his intervention, he produced scores by coming from deep.

In that seismic All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin, he had a couple of periods at full-forward, but for much longer periods he played in the middle of the park, pulling the shape of Dublin and his marker Rory O'Carroll into unfamiliar territory. During the All-Ireland final he only played the first 10 and last 10 minutes at full-forward. The rest of the time he played much deeper.

Given his excellence when he did join the attack and his accuracy from frees, a half-forward slot was infinitely more credible than putting him among the James O'Donoghues and Cillian O'Connors of this world, although he wears the number 14 jersey.

Belfast Telegraph