Michael Murphy caught off guard by Aussies’ tackling ‘blitz’

“For Michael to achieve what he did was heroic. He was only flying on one wing.”

That was team medic Dr Kevin Moran’s glowing tribute to Michael Murphy after his 20-point salvo in Adelaide last Sunday despite picking up a virus in the build-up.

The Donegal captain obviously isn’t as effusive in his praise of himself but he acknowledges his involvement in the game was in doubt.

“Everybody was contracting a bit of something. A couple of days before it I was a wee bit down but I managed to get out there.

“I didn’t really know until I got out there how I would feel, just drained of energy of all sorts. When you get out there and you get the first rattle, the first bang, you’re mad for action. I got through it alright.

“I was going to go down and try it anyway, try the warm-up at least. Going out in the heat first time around the tongue was fair wagging, but after that it was grand.”

The couple of days recovery was needed given what it had taken out of the players, particularly those who had suffered the bug.

“Everybody generally was (fatigued). I definitely was anyway. Just the sheer heat. It wasn’t as if you were covering huge, huge amounts of ground, it was just the intense bursts you had to do. I took to the bed fairly early that night.”

Murphy was one of only four Ireland players who managed an over or more but he anticipates there will be a bigger spread of scores on Saturday.

“I do think it will be. Some of the unfortunate cases of a lack of scores or behinds came from other lads. There were a good few debutants there and no matter what kind of training you do back home in Ireland, there’s nothing that replicates one of those compromise rules games. It’s much more frantic — it’s like a game of pinball more than anything else. It’s very hard to replicate that at home.”

As impressive as Murphy was, he too was caught unawares a couple of times. He uses it as an example to show how Ireland must grow accustomed to how quick the Australians are in tackling.

“A couple of those opportunities, when the ’keeper comes out and blitzes you as quick as they do, you’d tend to maybe step around them but you have to really get your shot away here because they’re so quick and so big and so nimble in the tackle to get around. They don’t leave you with any space at all.

“I got wrapped up in a tackle for double-thinking that split-second more. It’s not a nice place to be.”

The professionals versus amateurs argument is an integral part of the International Rules debate and while there is little difference in physique Murphy noticed the Aussies’ superior running power.

“There’s bangs and hits and you’d come away sore but in terms of their physicality it’s through running you’d notice it. They run in packs. In terms of other areas of physicality, there’s not much of a difference. We’re not far off. But the way they are able to run the ball in numbers is the one thing I’d notice. They’re very strong at it. Even their big men, they’re very comfortable running off the ball.”

Meanwhile, Paddy Ryder will now not be available to Australia on Saturday. The Port Adelaide player, who was cleared of assault charges, is remaining in South Australia to rest. He has been replaced by North Melbourne midfielder Shaun Higgins.


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