BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MICHAEL Murphy says Donegal must ‘hit the ground running’ once the National Football League gets underway at the end of the month.
The Glenswilly man, who has been retained as the county captain for 2015, played 23 minutes yesterday in the one-point win over Fermanagh that wasn’t enough to secure a place in the McKenna Cup semi-finals.
Now, Donegal turn their gaze towards the League. Back in Division 1 again following their promotion last year, the Ulster champions and All-Ireland finalists are in with th big guns again.
“Division 1 – you have to be at yourself from the very off,” Murphy said.
“You have to be on the ball. We’ve had a couple of rude awakenings over the last number of years. Every single day you go out you have to be at the races. If not, you’re quickly found out.
“There are some huge challenges there. But with that extra depth in the squad hopefully it’s a challenge we’ll meet head on.
“There is no better place than Division 1 to test that out. We’re going away to venues that are notorious for playing Division 1 football in and we’re bringing a couple of those teams into Donegal.”
Donegal open the Division 1 campaign when they host Derry in Ballybofey on Saturday, January 31 before they take on Dublin at Croke Park seven nights later, February 7.
Donegal have three away ties, with visits to Kerry and Mayo, and have further home games against Cork, Monaghan and Tyrone.
Murphy made his first appearance of the year yesterday as Donegal scored a 0-12 to 2-5 win over Fermanagh at Fr Tierney Park, coming in as a 47th minute replacement for the black-carded Hugh McFadden.
He said: “It’s nice to get back out there. After three or four weeks of training it’s nice to get a bit of game time to brush off the cobwebs.
“Most of us are almost there and hopefully we’re all looking forward to a long season ahead.”
Paul Durcan, Eamon McGee and Neil Gallagher also made their first appearances of 2015 as Donegal scraped past Fermanagh, although the Erne County move on to the semi-finals.
Second half goals by Marty O’Brien and Sean Quigley threatened to wipe out a 0-10 to 0-3 half-time advantage, but Donegal hung on.
Four months on from the All-Ireland final loss to Kerry and following the changing of the managerial guard, Murphy says Donegal are ready to rock again.
He said: “It doesn’t take too long for that hunger to return. I’ve been tipping away since early November. You don’t take the foot off the gas for too long as it’s that bit harder to get back up to speed then after.
“I’m happy with where I am at this moment.”
And the Glenswilly man, an All-Star in 2014, dismissed any notion that Donegal won’t be too bothered by how the League pans out. He said: “You put on the Donegal jersey and there’s no holding back. People made a lot of us not taking the League seriously in other years but every day you go out, you go out to win. Simple as.”