DONEGAL STAR MICHAEL Murphy is hopeful for continuity in the set-up after the curtain came down on their season last weekend.

Their 2019 All-Ireland SFC exit came after a four-point defeat to Mayo in Castlebar on Saturday evening. A massive talking point in the lead-up to that crunch Super 8s showdown was Stephen Rochford’s involvement in the Tír Chonaill set-up.

After resigning as Mayo boss last August, Donegal acted fast to snap up the Westerner as a coach this year. 

And Murphy is hopeful that ‘top-class’ Rochford will stay on. 

“We’d be very hopeful as a group of players, we definitely want him [to stay],” the captain said yesterday as he collected his PWC GAA/GPA player of the month award for July.

He’s been a brilliant addition along with Karl [Lacey] and Declan [Bonner] and Gary Boyle. He’s top-class. He’s responded well to the whole group and the group, by and large, have responded well to him too. 

“He just challenges everybody and pushed buttons. It comes from that outside type of thing which has been positive. We’d be hopeful, but we know the commitment is massive for him. You’d still want him involved next year without a doubt.”

“We believed we had, you know,” he added, when asked if he feels they made advances as a team since Rochford’s addition to the ticket. “Ultimately, the biggest game of the year for us, we didn’t show that. We need to wait around for another game to show it again.”

The 30-year-old feels he’ll have all, if not the vast majority of, his team-mates by his side when the time comes to go again. 

Of course, every year, there’s talk of more experienced players stepping away from a panel, but Murphy believes they’ll give it another shot.

Neil McGee (3) and Frank McGlynn (17) after Donegal’s Ulster final win over Cavan.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Everyone speaks about Frank [McGlynn] and Neil [McGee] as two of the older statesmen but they’re still relatively fresh,” he says.

“The two boys were disappointed to pick up the injuries that they picked up this year and not to be able to contribute to the same degree that they wanted at the Super 8 stage. I know that within the dressing room they are two huge figures.

They have younger souls at heart and are able to respond — they know the chat and the lingo with the younger lads. They’re still huge part of the whole thing.  I’d be hopeful that they’d be mad hungry to get back again next and give it another lash.

The Glenswilly ace spoke about next year’s targets and raising the bar yesterday, with a big part of that coming in Division 1 of the National Football League. 

It’ll definitely harden them up going forward, he agrees.

“That’s how you’d like to use Division 1, definitely. It’s been a couple of years now since we’ve played in it. 

“It’s a fairly youngish squad age-wise, which hasn’t played at that Division 1 level. Before, when we played Division 1, it was an ageing squad. You were trying to navigate the league, get the people up to the right fitness levels, get ready for championship, use the league like that more than try to perform.

“I think the standards in the league over the past two to three years have been right on the money and on a par sometimes with the championship.”

The future is definitely bright, and Murphy is already excited to go again. He’s keen to live in the now and enjoy his own football, but management is something that’s already on his radar. 

He’s taken a small step already — and a successful one at that — and it’s mentioned that Donegal great Eamon McGee recently told that Murphy will be “the next Jim McGuinness”.

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Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

That brings a little giggle, and then he’s asked if inter-county management is something he’d see himself doing.

“I don’t know,” he responds. “I’ve been involved a small bit with the local IT for the last couple of years. I’ve enjoyed that.

It’s become a massive animal now, the whole managing and coaching side of things. They’re nearly two different roles now between managing and coaching. I’ve a few more years yet to figure out which one of them I might go down.

“I’ll leave it to Eamon at the moment. He’s doing a good job. Let him at it!”

After all, he did guide Letterkenny IT to a Trench Cup win earlier this year. Although it may feel like an age ago now after a long summer on the Donegal front, it brings a smile to his face as the memories come flooding back. 

“Aye, it was good fun,” Murphy grins. “It was a good group of lads.

“It brought you back to the underage type stuff again. It was a good feeling, there was good camaraderie with the boys. We played some good football. It’s a commitment alright but it’s a small commitment compared to the way inter-county is gone at the minute.

“It’s every bit as enjoyable.”

And while it gets lost a lot of the time, enjoyment really is the main thing.

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