Michael Murphy unanimously selected as Best Donegal Footballer of last six decades

Peter Campbell


Peter Campbell

Michael Murphy unanimously selected as Best Donegal Footballer of last six decades

Michael Murphy has been unanimously selected as the Best Donegal Footballer of the last six decades by the Donegal Democrat selection panel.

Murphy was tops ahead of Karl Lacey and Martin McHugh.

Below are the profile of the top 10

1 Michael Murphy

Superstar. Phenomenon. Wonderkid. There are no words that really describe the footballer that our jury unanimously selected as the Best Footballer in Donegal over the past six decades.

And to think that Michael Murphy is still only 28 years of age. Rarely have we seen a player of Murphy’s physique possess the skills of talented corner forwards. Probably pigeon holed as a full-forward, Murphy is much more than that.

But above all, he is a leader. He has become known the length and breadth of Ireland and despite being targeted he has both the talent and the temperament to deal with everything that comes his way.

Described by many (including former GAA President, Peter Quinn) as the best player in Ireland at the moment, Murphy is central to all the success that Donegal have achieved in recent years.

After winning an Ulster minor medal with Donegal at the age of 17, he was brought into the senior squad a year later by Brian McIver and was an instant success, scoring a goal and a point on his debut.

He would go on to captain the Donegal U-21s to Ulster success in 2010 before losing the All-Ireland final to Dublin. Murphy almost won it for Donegal in the closing stages when his penalty came back off the crossbar.

A year later Jim McGuinness took over the Donegal seniors and Michael Murphy, still 21, was named captain, and he has retained that position ever since.

As captain, he is not just the leader for Donegal on the football field, he is the leader for the county in all aspects of life.

Amazingly, he has only two All-Stars to date, but he is well on his way to a third in 2018, with some phenomenal displays in the county jersey.

Those All-Stars were won in 2012 and 2014. In more recent years, due to the absence of big Neil Gallagher in the middle of the field, Murphy is being asked to play a different role for the county and has shown his array of talents as a team player, spraying passes and getting back to help out in defence.

His goal at the start of the 2012 All-Ireland final against Mayo will remain the standout memory from that second success for Donegal, as he led his side to victory and emulated Anthony Molloy in lifting the Sam Maguire Cup.

If you had the old scenario in the school yard from many years ago that two teams were selected at lunch time. Whoever won the toss would surely pick Michael Murphy as their first choice.

Our selectors agreed.

2 Karl Lacey

The most decorated Donegal footballer of all time, Karl Lacey’s status in the annals of Donegal GAA is there for all to see.

A very good underage player, the Four Masters man was quickly elevated to the senior team and for the first half of his intercounty career was a very competent corner-back, marking all the top forwards in the country.

This led to All-Stars in that position in 2006 and 2009. However, his career was elevated another couple of notches when Jim McGuinness took over at the helm of the Donegal GAA ship. Lacey was handed the No. 6 jersey with a licence to attack as well as defend, and his career flourished.  He went on to win two more All-Stars in the centre half-back position and was named Footballer of the Year in the All-Ireland winning year of 2012.

One of the best one-on-one tacklers in the game, Lacey’s dedication and focus would make him the ideal role model for any young defender to base their game on.

He is the holder of All-Ireland medals at Vocational School level and that famous senior All-Ireland in 2012. He also has a National League medal from 2007 and presently is a member of Declan Bonner’s backroom team, where he has plenty of knowledge to impart.

3  Martin McHugh

Prior to the present bunch of footballers, the name of Martin McHugh was always first on the list of people picking the best footballer in Donegal GAA. Despite his lack of physique in the early years, the Kilcar man was a revelation after bursting on the scene at the age of 19 in 1980.

He did not represent the county as a minor, but after scoring 0-10 in the Donegal Co. final of 1980 when Kilcar defeated Ardara, McHugh’s name was always on the Donegal teamsheet thereafter when he was available. His arrival also coincided with Donegal becoming successful, winning an All-Ireland U-21 title in 1982 followed by an Ulster senior title the following year. McHugh would also win  Railway Cup medals in 1983 and 1984, and later in his career would become the only Donegal man to captain an Ulster Railway Cup winning team in 1993.

The Kilcar man went on to win two more Ulster senior medals in 1990 and 1992 and that first senior All-Ireland in 1992. He was named Texaco Footballer of the Year that year. Won further county titles with Kilcar in 1985, 1989 and 1993. After his playing career managed Cavan to an Ulster senior title in 1997 and nowadays is an analyst with BBC, RTE and Highland Radio.

4 Tony Boyle

The maestro of full-forwards with a temperament to match, Tony Boyle’s name is very highly regarded when Gaelic football is debated around the county.

Boyle came into the Donegal squad as a 20-year-old in 1990 and was pressed into action in the Ulster final and never looked back. The Dungloe man had trouble with knee injuries early in his career. A magnificent minor, Boyle went on to make the No. 14 jersey with Donegal his own. His style of winning ball in front was trademark, sliding out to gather possession. Then in possession, he could always trouble any defence. But overall, one of his greatest assets was his teamwork. Many would say he was the missing link for Donegal to allow them to go on and win the county’s first All-Ireland in 1992. The following season he was sidelined with a nerve injury, but he returned to play for the county until 2001 without having any further intercounty success.

An All-Star in 1992, he also won three Railway Cup medals and played 107 times for the county.

After his playing days he was manager of Dungloe and was an assistant to John Joe Doherty at intercounty level.

5 Anthony Molloy

Will always be known as the man who first lifted the Sam Maguire for Donegal. An inspirational type character, Molloy remains a folk hero in the county. From the hills above Ardara in Leamagowra, Anthony Molloy seemed destined for the top. Was full-forward on the Donegal minor team, but quickly found his niche at midfield, winning an All-Ireland U-21 in 1992. It is still inspiring to hear Fr. Seán’s commentary on that game on YouTube and Molloy features quite a lot.

Went on to win an Ulster senior medal at the age of 21 in 1983 and then became the inspirational captain in 1990 and became the first Donegal man to lift the Anglo Celt on two occasions, prior to the first big day for Donegal GAA, winning the All-Ireland in 1992. Won an All-Star in that great year.

Not just a leader for Donegal, Molloy was also a proud member of the Ardara club and always led by example in that jersey as well. Went on to lead Donegal minors to Ulster success and still maintains a great interest in the GAA at club and county level. Still revered no matter where he travels and he has become a great ambassador for the county.

6 Sean Ferriter

The name Sean Ferriter has been synonymous with Donegal GAA for much more than 60 years. Captain of the first Donegal team to win an Ulster minor championship in 1956, Ferriter was a regular on Donegal teams from then until he retired. As his name suggests, there was Kerry blood, as his father was from Ballyferriter. Played in two Ulster finals for Donegal in 1963 and 1966 without success, and also was central to the county appearing in four National League semi-finals in that decade.

A big man, Ferriter was very disciplined and dedicated, probably more so than many of his colleagues at that time. After missing out on the Ulster successes of the early 1970s, made a brief comeback in 1975.

Based in Dublin for much of his working life, Ferriter became a valued member of Brian McEniff’s backroom team, analysing opposition prior to games. And he was the manager’s ‘eye in the sky’ at big games, giving advice from the stands.

Still retains a terrific interest in the county and rarely misses any game. Even at the recent Dr. McKenna Cup win in Armagh against Tyrone, he was celebrating the success.

Will always be held in high regard in the county.

7 Colm McFadden

Colm, along with his clubmate, Christy Toye, played minor for three years for Donegal and almost won an Ulster minor title at 16 in 1999. The talent was already on show, with that lethal left boot. Was brought into the Donegal senior panel by Mickey Moran a few years later and continued to wear either 13 or 15 until his retirement a few years ago.

Capable of scoring from just about anywhere and on a good day was almost impossible to mark. A big man, he could win his own ball, and his laid back approach belied a real competitive streak.

Like many throughout the early years of his senior career, found Tyrone and Armagh tough to break down (although he had a great scoring record against Tyrone). Then his brother-in-law Jim McGuinness took over as Donegal manager and McFadden and Donegal’s path changed dramatically.

The St. Michael’s man would establish himself as one of the top forwards in Ireland and in 2012 was one of three nominees for Player of the Year in that All-Ireland winning year.

Also won an All-Star and almost gained a draw for Donegal in the All-Ireland final of 2014, his last minute fisted effort coming back off a post.

Retired in 2006 but is fondly remembered as one of Donegal’s most natural footballers who retained the common touch.

8 Frankie McFeely

His biggest claim to fame will always be that he became the first Donegal man to hold aloft the Anglo Celt Cup. That came in 1972 and was a huge breakthrough for Donegal.

McFeely was a worthy captain as he was regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation, not just in Donegal, but throughout Ireland.

Not a huge man, the MacCumhaill’s man possessed a great spring and could field ball in the middle of the park with opponents who were many inches taller than him.

Was part of the Donegal line-up right throughout the 1960s, he was accompanied by an array of talent including his brother, Brendan.

Was part of the Donegal set-up at a young age, he won Ulster U-21 Championship medals in 1963 and 1964, and laboured through a great period but didn’t get any final success. It is said that Donegal really should have won more in that time with players like Sean Ferriter, PJ Flood, Bernard Brady, Des Houlihan, Sean O’Donnell, Paul Kelly, Seamie Granaghan . . .  the list goes on. But then it came together in 1972, and he was the man who got to lift the cup for the first time in Ulster. Won just one Railway Cup medal as a 20-year-old in 1963.

However, it is the 1972 success that elevated him into the annals of the GAA in the county.

9 Neil Gallagher

The longer Neil Gallagher is retired, the greater the respect he receives for his contribution to the county team, especially over the last ten years.

The words ‘Gentle Giant’ are the only words that aptly describe the big Glenswilly man, who blossomed under the stewardship of Jim McGuinness and became one of the most accomplished midfield players the county has ever seen.

But it didn’t happen until the latter years of his career. A shy and soft spoken type character, Gallagher’s career took off in those later years. Brian McIver saw that talent and made him captain and he went on to captain Donegal to their only National League in 2007. Initially when Jim McGuinness took over, he only used Gallagher as cover, but eventually the Glenswilly man began to blossom and played a huge part in Donegal’s success in Ulster and the All-Ireland of 2012.

Gallagher was not just a midfielder. Indeed, probably his greatest asset was reading the game and finding the perfect pass, long or short. Went on to score the famous last point in the 2012 All-Ireland. Deservedly won All-Stars in 2012 and 2014. Has been a real leader for his club, Glenswilly in their successes in Donegal.

10 Frank McGlynn

If all football was played the Frank McGlynn way, then there would be little trouble in recruiting players at underage level each year.

Had a few trials across channel in his early years before becoming a regular for Donegal from a young age. Won a National League medal in 2007, but like many others, had suffered plenty with Donegal until the present golden era.

The quick-breaking style of football played under Jim McGuinness gave McGlynn a new licence and he was able to bomb forward and score in many of those forward runs. Majestic on the run, McGlynn has that close control which allows him get away from defenders. He is just easy on the eye. Scored some memorable points and the odd goal when given the freedom.

With the Ulster successes of 2011, 2012 and 2014 came All-Stars in 2012, when he was also shortlisted for Player of the Year.

Continues to play at a very high level for Donegal and is now one of the leaders of the team.

Also continues to be central to his club Glenfin, although rewards have been much less than at county level. A National School teacher and a perfect example to all up and coming players.