BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MICHAEL Murphy says Donegal mustn’t lose the ‘momentum’ gained in the last four years as they embark into a new era under Rory Gallagher’s management in 2015.
Jim McGuinness stepped away in October after four glorious years as Donegal manager and his former assistant Gallagher has taken the reigns. Murphy – who has captained Donegal to three Ulster titles and an All-Ireland win in 2012, as well as the 2013 Ulster final and the 2014 All-Ireland final – believes that Donegal can stay among the leading contenders for the big prizes again next year.
“We’ll get back on the road again next year and it’s important not to lose any of the momentum that we’ve gained over the last number of years,” Murphy said at the annual Donegal GAA banquet on Saturday night.
“The momentum gained over the last four years was momentum due to hard work and due to putting in long hours and every man putting the shoulder to the wheel. I’ve no doubt that, with that and added to the minor and under-21s’ success we can really push forward as a county and show everyone what we have to offer.
“Jim had four phenomenal years and we’ll be forever indebted to him and the backroom team. They gave us a life of experience and they made dreams come true.”
After losing their All-Ireland and Ulster titles in a disappointing 2013, Donegal roared back this year, winning back their Ulster crown against Monaghan before reaching the All-Ireland final. Having toppled Dublin with a stunning semi-final display, goals by Paul Geaney and Kieran Donaghy saw Kerry pip Donegal to Sam Maguire in September.
Donegal came inches from snatching a draw in a dramatic finale, but Kerry held on and the pain of that afternoon was still clear from Murphy’s words.
He said: “The last couple of months have been the toughest some of us have ever experienced. We put absolutely everything into winning the All-Ireland. We came up short on the day and we failed to perform, which is something that will live with us. That’s life, that’s football and you have to get on with it.
“The game runs through your head every morning you wake up and every night you go to bed. We were playing catch-up right through the game. We played catch-up at least three times during the game and we came back each time. We just couldn’t get that step forward and get ahead. We can have no regrets because we gave absolutely everything for the cause and it just didn’t work out for us.
“It was a long, hard year. We had failed to live up to expectations in 2013 and we just got back at it early. We made the final of the League and we conquered our goal in Ulster. After that, our focus really turned to the All-Ireland.”
The Glenswilly man has had a hectic couple of months since the All-Ireland final. Glenswilly reached the Donegal SFC final and Murphy was part of the Irish International Rules squad that played in Perth and last week was in Boston as part of the All-Stars tour.
However, with Donegal down to play Tyrone next May in Ulster, the battle lines are already in place. Donegal will be back in Division 1 of the League in 2015, too – and Murphy is determined to keep Donegal dining at the top table.
He said: “We have a huge game coming up in the first round of Ulster and we have a huge League campaign ahead of us.
“It’s about us carrying on the mantle as a group of players along with the new management. We want to keep Donegal on the map and keep pushing forward.”