A young Michael Murphy on left with Anthony Molloy in 1992
Peter Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org @dgldemocrat
There is a famous picture of Anthony Molloy with the Sam Maguire Cup along with one of his greatest fans.
The little boy looks really chuffed to be beside his hero in the early 1990s, shortly after Molloy led Donegal to their first ever All-Ireland title in 1992.
That little boy was Michael Murphy and he went on to become only the second Donegal, man to lift the Sam Maguire in 2012.
The symmetry is not lost on Molloy as he tells the Democrat that he firmly believes that Donegal’s young and inexperienced side can beat Tyrone in Clones on Sunday.
"That was a lovely picture and it was taken in Glenties and Michael was only very young.
“But who would have thought that you were looking at two All-Ireland winning captains”.
Life comes full circle and these days Anthony Molloy is a huge fan of Murphy.
“Quite simply he is Donegal’s greatest ever player and we have had some good ones but that is my firm opinion.
“Michael has everything, attitude, ability, accuracy and most of all exceptional leadership qualities.
“He was captain at only 22 and has led us since 2011 which says it all and he has never lost his hunger and is always trying to improve.
“All the lads in the squad look up to him and he can bring people with him in his own quiet but very determined way.
“He is quiet by nature and shuns the limelight but always leads by example.
“And apart from these obvious qualities, he can catch, kick frees, tackle and plays from square to square and is definitely the complete package”.
And, unlike last year, Murphy is injury free which is a huge bonus for Tir Conaill, according to Molloy.
“I saw him injuring his ankle against Ardara last year and he never really recovered from it.
“But he would never complain because there is loads of character there”.
So can Murphy and Donegal prevail, as usual Molloy is candid.
“I have no doubt but that Donegal can beat Tyrone even though this is a young and relatively inexperienced team.
“We can’t dwell on that defeat of Tyrone in the NFL but I think there is still a fair bit of hurt there from last year when we left an Ulster title behind us.
“And of course Tyrone will be very keen to go even further this year”
But Molloy believes it will “not be pretty in Clones”.
“Both teams will be packing their defences so it could all come down to a refereeing decision, some sort of a card, a moment of individual brilliance (remember Sean Cavanagh last year)
“But we gave away frees too easily last year so I am sure that is something that will be worked on”.
However “pace” could be a real ace for this young team.
"There are so many young fast players like Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Jason McGee, Michael Carroll, Eoin McHugh, Michael Langan, Jamie Brennan and now Kieran Gillespie is back and fully fit.
“These lads may be young but they are used to winning at underage and will be raring to go”.
In some way they are not unlike quite a young Donegal team studded with U-21s in 1983 that Brian McEniff took to an Ulster title.
If anything, this Donegal team is even younger, but Molloy feels that they are more than ready.
And he agrees that Michael Murphy does come in for some unwarranted attention.
“That is because he is so big and strong that he finds it harder to get frees.
“But you tend to find that with big men”.
On Tyrone, he is not sure if Sean Cavanagh poses quite the same threat.
“He is still a great player but the years are there.
“Both Tyrone and ourselves will be defending and attacking in droves so it could hinge on something opening up in the final minutes.
“That’s when the space opens up and we have the pace and power in this young side to punish Tyrone.
“It will be very close but I think we can do it”.
And Donegal can certainly prevail, especially if Michael Murphy is in a position to maintain normal service in front of his childhood hero from the early 1990s.