Donegal manager Rory Gallagher defended Michael Murphy in the wake of his sending off against Cork on Sunday.
The Donegal skipper was sent to the line for a second yellow card by match referee Joe McQuillan in Ballyshannon after 51 minutes of the Allianz League Division One fixture, for a foul on Eoin Cadogan.
The bane of Gallagher’s contention over the issue is that Murphy - because of his stature - seldom gets the protection he deserves from the game’s officialdom.
“I have to watch it back but Michael Murphy is a big guy and he goes into a lot of contact and sometimes things look a little worse than they are,” Gallagher said.
There was a similar instance in Donegal’s last outing three weeks ago when Murphy was on the end of some heavy treatment in the 2-10 to 0-11 loss to Dublin, but was black carded himself three minutes from time.
Yesterday, the Glenswilly forward was seemingly fouled by Cork wing-back Jamie O’Sullivan on 33 minutes but play was waved on.
Seconds later, when Murphy effectively returned the favour, he was penalised by McQuillan and shown his first yellow card.
“The quality of Michael means he will come under a lot of pressure,” Gallagher added.
“He’s a big man and a big unit. Maybe referees think he can look after himself. At the same time Joe McQuillan handled it well.
“But the sending off was a clear turning point. At that time we were playing with an exceptionally strong breeze. We were five points ahead and were playing really well.
“They capitalised on it, scored a great goal and we were clinging on.”
But a bit like Donegal in general, Gallagher didn’t let the dismissal spoil the afternoon and left with the points after a 0-12 to 1-8 win over Cork, who were the only unbeaten side in the top flight heading into the weekend’s third series of fixtures.
In a way, Donegal grinding out a one-point win without their talisman might be more beneficial in the long run than the comfortable victory that was on the cards for a spell.
“We’re delighted with the way we ground it out,” Gallagher said. “In the conditions and the type of weather that was out there today it was always likely to come down to the wire.
“These narrow wins are good for character. Things happen but you have to adapt to it and we did manage to adapt.
“That was really pleasing. It would have been easy to say that the sending off turned it but we dug in and picked off a couple of scores at a time when the game was in the balance.
“Thankfully we did manage to adapt. Just about!”
Thus far, the transition from Jim McGuinness to Gallagher has been smooth. The way in which Donegal set themselves isn’t homogenous but it’s certainly very similar.
Gallagher, a little like his predecessor, isn’t getting overly excitable about Division One in early spring.
He did, though, admit there was one thing that has disappointed him of late and that’s his team’s inability to covert their chances.
It was a facet of the Croke Park fixture and although Donegal were on the backfoot yesterday after Murphy was sent off, there were some well crafted breaks to make the game safe. These chances came and went.
“We probably over-played at times,” Gallagher added.
“There were times we went for goal and probably should have put it over the bar. But to me, what was pleasing was the way that we created those opportunities.”
All in all, Gallagher can be content enough with four points ahead of a fixture against Monaghan this Sunday in Letterkenny.
“We’re looking forward to playing Monaghan again,” he added. “There’s been a good rivalry developing over the last number of years.”