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SFC final preview: Michael Murphy’s stardust can shoot Glenswilly to win over Killybegs

Michael Murphy celebrates after firing Glenswilly to the title in 2011.

Michael Murphy celebrates after firing Glenswilly to the title in 2011.

MATCH PREVIEW BY CHRIS MCNULTY
c.mcnulty@donegalnews.com

THE showreel of his greatest moments follows a common path.

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It was in the 42nd minute of the 2011 county final that Michael Murphy found himself with a little yard of space as Joe Gibbons took receipt of a ball in the middle of the park.

The full-forward pointed to where he wanted it and Gibbons let fly.

Murphy had been double-teamed by St Michael’s defenders Peter Witherow and Stephen Black, but in that moment he managed to prise the shackles opened.

Reaching above Witherow, Murphy swivelled on the proverbial sixpence and slammed the ball past Ciaran Gallagher to the Town End net.

It is a goal that they’ll talk about by the firesides of Glenswilly for decades to come. Dr Maguire was won for the first time and the image of Murphy at the game’s end is one of the abiding images of the day – on his knees, leaning back and with those bulging arms outstretched, he was king of his land.

There was also that unforgettable moment with only 142 seconds of the 2012 All-Ireland final played.

Donegal had foraged well to win possession deep in the corner and as he strode out alongside the Cusack Stand, Karl Lacey knew the destination of the O’Neill’s he carried. Donegal had targeted a blitz early on – and with Murphy at the edge of the square they laid down the gauntlet in the opening seconds.

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Lacey delivered the arrow and Murphy, fetching above Kevin Keane just in front of Hill 16, in the one sweeping move, held off his man, took possession, spun onto the right foot and thundered to the net.

Sometime later that evening, a photographer snapped Murphy – and the picture was in keeping with his frame of glory from eleven months previously. The arms outstretched and taking in the adulation of his people, Murphy was, in that capture, lost in the craze.

Whenever he takes to the big stages, Murphy can turn on the style: Glenswilly and Donegal can testify to that.

When the silverware is on the line, Murphy is one of those special players who can make it happen.

What stands to Glenswilly more than anything is the knowledge that when they gather in the dust-filled corridor of Sean MacCumhaill Park at around 3.40pm on Sunday, Michael Murphy will walk in their band.

Killybegs are a team and a club that have been masters over the years of making opponents play the game on their terms.

Martin ‘Slua’ Boyle’s side has bucked mays a trend in 2013 and having lost each and every one of their fourteen games in Division One, they are the only unbeaten team left in the Championship.

To curb Murphy, it seems likely that Boyle will detail Jason Noctor with the portfolio of stopping the Donegal ace. Noctor is a sticky defender who rarely gives an inch. With a player like Murphy, they may be best served in doubling up to try and suffocate him.

Out the field, cutting off the supply pipe into the full-forward line will be key.

Matthew Smyth has been in excellent form around the middle third and it’ll likely to a straight fight between he and Neil Gallagher in the engine room. To go eye-to-eye with the in-form Ciaran Bonner, Killybegs could select their captain, Benny Boyle, while Barry Cannon could also get a re-call, though his lack of game time seems to side with the moving of Boyle back from the half-forward line. Christopher Murrin has been a real influence driving up from the half-back line this year and the management appear reluctant to take him out of that sentry.

Killybegs have marquee men of their own with Hugh McFadden having been a revelation in the Championship. Glenswilly’s pride is their rearguard, with Philip O’Donnell having one of Donegal’s meanest defences in front of him. Eamon Ward is the man most likely to get the task of marking McFadden.

The Fishermen will again select Brendan Faherty and Conal Molloy, both having flown back from America for the game. Numbers are thin on the ground and despite having had little game time alongside the rest of the squad, the duo will be deployed. Benny Boyle and Brendan McGuire also carry significant threats, but the loss of Ronan Boyle to a knee injury is a big blow to a Killybegs team that has real concerns over McGuire’s fitness as he struggles on with an injury too.

Glenswilly are not without injury worries of their own. Leon Kelly and Ryan Hunter are battling injuries and will not be available to start, with participation at all questionable. The word on Ciaran Bonner is much better. Despite being hampered by a hamstring injury, Bonner is set to take his place in the starting XV and he is another man, with those powerful and purposeful bursts into opposition territory, something of which Killybegs will be mindful.

Gary ‘Copper’ McFadden has been in excellent form of late, starring in Glenswilly’s semi-final victory against Ardara and following that up by kicking eight points last Saturday in a League game against Termon that confirmed the Foxhall team as the Division 2 All-County League champions.

McFadden gives Glenswilly accuracy from left-footed frees and is a noted scorer from play too with seven of his eight scores last weekend coming from play.

A member of the Donegal panel over the past couple of seasons with minimal chances, McFadden is likely to be a man with something to show to the watching Jim McGuinness on Sunday.

Colin Kelly’s return has given Glenswilly a livewire edge in the full-forward line and the former Donegal man has lethal accuracy feeding off Murphy’s bat downs and he is another player that will take quite the watching and David Conwell looks the best bet to be assigned to Kelly.

Neither side is lacking in the experience department, with Glenswilly able to call on the bulk of their history makers from 2011 and Killybegs still fresh and reeling from their defeat to Naomh Conaill in the 2010 final.

For veteran Killybegs player Mark Boyle, Sunday will represent his eighth final. He has won Championships in 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1996 and you have to go back twenty three years to the first time he lined out in a final, their 1990 defeat to Naomh Columba.

At 40, he hasn’t rule out giving it another go in 2014 – but he is itching to end the famine in Fintra that goes back to ‘96.

“I’ll see how the body feels over the winter but in the meantime I want another Championship medal in the cupboard,” he says.

The 2013 Championship was run with a new round robin format – a plan and a proposal concocted first in the clubhouse at Killybegs.

It is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that Killybegs could cause another upset on Sunday and it really would be a fairytale for the ages if they could pull it off.

Glenswilly, though, appear to have the greater strength with the likes of Gallagher, McFadden and Bonner around the middle, Caolán Kelly pulling the strings as the sweeper and the prompting of Gibbons and James Pat McDaid laying the foundations for that ever-threatening front division.

With Murphy as their guide, the men from the hills can reach the summit again.

GLENSWILLY v KILLYBEGS

Sunday, October 20, 2013
Venue: Sean MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey
Throw-in: 4pm
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill)
Linesmen: Seamus McGonagle (Aodh Ruadh), Don Langan (St Michael’s)
Fourth Official: Ciara Foy (Convoy)
Weather: Mostly cloudy; 20 per cent chance of rain
Odds: Glenswilly – 4/11; Draw – 7/1; Killybegs – 11/4.

Verdict: Glenswilly to win with a little breathing space.

_______________________________________________________

Peadar McGeehin trophy to be presented

THE Man of the Match in Sunday’s final will be presented with the Peadar McGeehin Memorial trophy, named in honour of the late former St Eunan’s player and manager.

In 2008, the 25th anniversary of St Eunan’s Championship win in 1983, of which Peadara McGeehin was the manager, the McGeehin family donated the award for the first time and it has been presented at each final since.

Brendan Devenney was the winner of the first award and Glenswilly’s Michael Murphy was the recipient in 2011 following his match-winning exploits against St Michael’s.

Peadar McGeehin Man of The Match: The previous winners
2008    Brendan Devenney (St Eunan’s)
2009    Ciaran Greene (St Eunan’s)
2010    Leo McLoone (Naomh Conaill)
2011    Michael Murphy (Glenswillly)
2012    Daragh Gallagher (Naomh Conaill)

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