It was a case of delight mixed with relief for Donegal captain Michael Murphy that they had held on at the end of Saturday’s semi-final against Tyrone, in St. Tiernach’s Park, in Clones.
Minutes after Donegal’s 0-12 to 0-10 victory at the end of a highly tactical and intense encounter the Donegal skipper had already turned his thoughts to Down and the Ulster final on Saturday evening in Clones.
“We’re just glad to have ground out a result. Tyrone went through right at the end and hit the post and there could so very easily have been a different reflection on the game. We’re delighted to get through but there’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done. We weren’t up to the pace for large parts of the game. All facets of our game need to be worked on – every bit of our game,” said Murphy.
“Tyrone were always going to be a tough challenge. They’ve got top class players. They’ve a number of three-time All-Ireland winners within their squad. We weren’t happy at half-time. Tyrone got in for a number of easy scores and missed a number of other scoring chances. On another day they could have been well in front at half-time.
“I was happier with the way we started the second half. We set the right tone but Tyrone got through us for large parts of the match and on a different day they could have been out of sight.
“We’re all disappointed that Tyrone were allowed to get the ball that close to our goal late on but, thankfully, Papa (Paul Durcan) never lets us down and he was in the right place to make the save. Hopefully both he and Michael (Boyle) will be able to push each other on in training between now and the final.”
The captain also admitted that the loss of full-back Neil McGee was a factor in their poor first half performance as it unsettled the defence for a time and it took the team as a whole time to readjust.
“No, it didn’t help but that’s what the squad is there for and the boys who came in did a job. We’re very lucky to have players in there pushing for places and hopefully that will continue right up to the Ulster final.”
Looking ahead to the final the Glenswilly man said that Down are a top class side as they showed in coming from nine points down in their semi-final against Monaghan.
“They gave us a bit of a lesson in the league and it’s going to be a big game for us to overcome but we’re looking forward to it and all attention turns to that game now. Down have quality players throughout their squad. They reached an All-Ireland final a few years ago and they’ll push us hard. We’ve a lot of stuff to work on between now and then,” he insisted.
On a more personal level, the Tyrone game gave Murphy another 70 minutes of football after missing much of the previous thee months through injury.
“It’s great to get another 70 minutes under the belt and I’ll get another three weeks of hard training in before the Ulster final.”