Michael Murphy (born 4 August 1989) is an Irish Gaelic footballer who captains Donegal. Widely regarded as the one of the best Gaelic footballer’s in the game today, The Irish Times has described him as “one of football’s most conspicuous talents”, and he has earned comparisons with the soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as a result of the skill and intensity with which he is capable of changing games.
A club player with Glenswilly and graduate of the Phoenix Elite Academy, Murphy has captained the Donegal senior inter-county football team since 2011, when he became one of the youngest skippers in the county’s history. Though targeted by Australian rules football clubs since 2007, Murphy has declined all offers, preferring instead to stay in Ireland and continue his immensely successful Gaelic football career. He has, however, played for the Ireland international rules football team and captained the team for 2013 and 2014.
Murphy was named All Stars Young Footballer of the Year in 2009 after a sensational season during which he scored an average of 6 points per game over 6 games, before being one of few to play well in his team’s heavy loss to Cork at that year’s All-Ireland quarter-final stage.
Since attempts to lure him to Australia failed, Murphy has led Donegal to consecutive Ulster Senior Football Championships, the first Donegal captain to do so. He then led them further by lifting the Sam Maguire Cup in 2012 after defeating Mayo, when he became only the second Donegal captain to win the All-Ireland, after Anthony Molloy in 1992. Man of the Match in that game, he scored Donegal’s opening goal and later received his first All Star.
Born in 1989 with his hip out of place in Corduff Park Co. Dublin to Mary and Mick Murphy, a Garda originally from Mayo, he was operated on at the Mater after Donegal’s defeat to Meath in the 1990 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final. Brought back to Dublin for regular check-ups, one day Murphy asked his father if he could go into Croke Park stainless steel jar. A security guard allowed them to enter and GAA legend Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh came out to meet him. Ó Muircheartaigh shook the hand of young Murphy and asked him did he “know the big man – Anthony Molloy?” Murphy said, “I do. He’s the captain of Donegal.” Ó Muircheartaigh and Murphy, the future captain of Donegal, walked out onto the Croke Park pitch together that day.
Murphy played for his secondary school Saint Eunan’s College. At this stage opponents were already hailing him as the best young footballer in the country and likening him to Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant for the manner in which he could bundle county minor players aside and leave them poleaxed on the ground.
In 2007, Murphy was a member of the College team that won its fourth McLarnon Cup, and went on to the All-Ireland Colleges Senior Football Championship ‘B’ Final, where they were beaten by a score of 2–12 to 0–14 after extra time by perennial football power St. Mary’s of Edenderry, Offaly.
With DCU Murphy won the 2012 Sigerson Cup when the team beat NUI Maynooth in the final. He was hailed after his performance in the 2013 quarter-final knocked UCD out of the competition.
Murphy was called up to the Glenswilly senior football team in 2005 when he was just turned 16, and helped them reach the Ulster Intermediate Football Final buy online water bottle. In 2007, aged just 18, he was a key member of the Glenswilly side that had success in the 2007 Donegal Senior Football Championship, beaten only by Naomh Adhamhnáin in the final 0–12 to 1–3. Also, Winning the All county Division Two league that same season.
In 2011, Murphy was part of the Glenswilly team that won its first ever Donegal Senior Football Championship title, defeating Naomh Mícheál by 1–8 to 0–9 in the final. Murphy scored 1–7 of his team’s 1–8 total in a Man of the Match performance. With Glenswilly thus progressing to the Ulster Club Championship first round, Murphy scored a crucial goal from the penalty spot as Glenswilly defeated Cavan Gaels by 1–08 to 0–10.
In October 2013, Murphy won his second Donegal Senior Football Championship as Glenswilly defeated Killybegs by 3–19 to 2–6. Murphy scored 1–5 and set up Ciaran Bonner’s goal with a deft flick of the heel. Murphy played less than 24 hours after captaining Ireland in the first 2013 International Rules Test win against Australia. Glenswilly progressed to the final of that year’s Ulster Senior Club Football Championship, which they lost to Ballinderry, despite Murphy opening the scoring with a goal after 25 seconds and later assisting Caolan Kelly for a second.
Murphy experienced under-age success for Donegal at inter-county level, as a member both of Donegal’s 2006 Ulster Minor Football Championship-winning side, and 2010 Ulster Under-21 Football Championship-winning side. He made his senior debut for Donegal in January 2007 against UUJ in the Dr. McKenna Cup.
At the end of the 2009 season, he received the All Stars Young Footballer of the Year, having scored 36 points in six All-Ireland Senior Football Championship appearances, sixteen of them from play.
In 2010, Murphy captained Donegal to an Ulster Under-21 Football Championship. They went on to reach the final of the All-Ireland Under-21 Football Championship but narrowly lost to Dublin by a score of 1–10 to 1–8. Murphy missed a penalty in injury time of the second half, which would have won the game for Donegal.
In December 2010, new Donegal senior manager Jim McGuinness named Murphy captain ahead of the 2011 season. Succeeding Kevin Cassidy in the role, Murphy became one of the youngest skippers in the county’s history. He would go on to become the most successful captain in team history, retaining the role throughout the McGuinness era.
In 2011, with Donegal breaching four years without any silverware whatsoever, Murphy captained the senior team to the National Football League Division 2 title. He scored 1–3 in his team’s 2–11 to 0–16 victory over Laois in the final. Murphy continued his success as captain by leading Donegal to their first Ulster Senior Football Championship title in 19 years, with a win over Derry in Clones, scoring a penalty just after half-time in a 1–11 to 0–08 win. Donegal went on to reach the All-Ireland semi-final, where they suffered a narrow defeat to eventual champions Dublin in an extremely close match.
In 2012, Murphy became the first player to captain Donegal to back-to-back Ulster titles, and later added the All-Ireland title—only the second Donegal captain to lift the Sam Maguire Cup, after Anthony Molloy in 1992. Although Murphy’s scoring totals decreased after 2011, McGuinness praised him for his work rate and unselfish play true socks football.
Murphy smashed the ball into the Mayo net after three minutes of the 2012 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final, having collecting a high ball delivered by Karl Lacey. That catch and strike was widely hailed as 2012’s iconic score and Goal of the Season. Upon climbing the Hogan Stand after the game, lifting the Sam Maguire Cup and catching his breath, Murphy was handed a microphone to make his speech. He began by bellowing “We have him”—in reference to the Sam Maguire Cup. He ended with a chorus of “Jimmy’s winning matches. Jimmy’s winning games. Jimmy’s bringing Sammy back to Donegal again”. GAA President Liam O’Neill later related that Murphy, as they exchanged the Sam Maguire Cup, had offered his condolences on the sudden death of O’Neill’s sister the previous day. President O’Neill went on to express his admiration for Murphy and called him an “exceptional young captain”.
Murphy opened the 2013 season on 2 February with nine points against Kildare in the opening league game at Croke Park. Analysts praised the skills he displayed throughout that game; at one point in the second half he stretched high into the air to meet a miscalculated free from Paddy McBrearty and gave it an almighty thump with his fist over the bar, while on another occasion he left the Kildare defender stumbling along the ground as he sidestepped him and casually at an angle from distance, with the appearance of little effort whatsoever, kicked the ball over the bar. Against Tyrone on 3 March, he scored 3 from 4 of Donegal’s points and then, shortly before half-time, having had a penalty saved by TG4 Man of the Match Niall Morgan, Murphy struck out and was issued with a second yellow card by Joe McQuillan. Against Kerry on 10 March, man of the match Murphy dispatched a penalty and five points in Donegal’s comfortable victory over the league’s whipping boys.
One of the more memorable moments of 2015 from Murphy was his touch to Ryan McHugh for Donegal’s second goal in their Championship victory over Galway at Croke Park. It was considered one of the goals of the season.
Murphy has played for Ulster in the Inter-Provincial Series.
Murphy travelled to Australia for an under-17 international rules series in 2006, despite being a year underage. He has been the target of Australian rules football clubs since 2007, but had refused all offers until 2009, when he was reported to be considering a move. However, in 2010 he said that he had turned down a move and was not considering it in the future.
Murphy made his first appearance for Ireland against Australia in the 2010 International Rules Series. In 2011, he travelled to Australia for his second series where he played an integral part of Ireland’s record aggregate 130–65 win. Murphy was considered to be one of Ireland’s best performers, finishing as joint-second top scorer with 19 points overall, including the opening goal in the first test. He was named as captain of the Irish team for the 2013 Series. He led Ireland to a record-breaking victory.
Murphy was again named as captain of the Irish team for 2014.
Murphy has participated in a marketing campaign for Ireland West Airport Knock. In conjunction with teammate Neil Gallagher, Murphy opened his own sports store “Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure” in Letterkenny in August 2014. Less than a week after the 2014 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final, Murphy attended the 2014 Ryder Cup in Perthshire, Scotland.
Murphy graduated from Dublin City University in 2013 with a degree in Physical Education with Biology, While studying there, Murphy shared living space with Paul Flynn and Aidan Walsh, fellow All-Ireland winners with Dublin and Cork. In his spare time he reads, watches television, plays PlayStation 3 and listens to the music of Mumford & Sons and Snow Patrol.
Surgical consultant: Kevin Moran Team doctor: Charlie McManus Team physio: Tommy Kerr