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Bonner wants more protection from referees for Donegal's Murphy

‘Michael is a big strong lad and he comes in for special treatment,’ said Declan Bonner.

ONE OF THE stand-out images from Donegal’s Ulster semi-final win against Armagh at the weekend was the sight of four Orchard players celebrating aggressively over Michael Murphy after he conceded a free early in the game.

It’s the sort of treatment Murphy has had to get used to over the years, particularly in the provincial championship, and Donegal boss Declan Bonner says his star man deserves more protection from referees. 

“Michael gets that attention every day he goes out,” said Bonner, who complained about the treatment to referee David Coldrick during the first-half water break.

“I felt in the first quarter that there were a few definite frees that we didn’t get. Michael is a big strong lad and he comes in for special treatment. He’s a special player.

“It might just be because of who he is,” he continued.

“He doesn’t get the protection that he deserves. Like everyone else that goes onto a playing pitch, Michael is well fit to look after himself. I felt there were a number of frees that we didn’t get. We’ll move on and get ready for next week.”

The Athletic Grounds in Armagh has been chosen as the venue for Sunday’s Ulster final against Cavan, despite the surface looking in poor condition for the Breffni’s narrow 1-14 to 1-13 defeat of Down last weekend. 

A lack of floodlights in Clones meant that it was unable to host the game, which throws-in at 4pm.

“Looking at the state of the pitch on Sunday, it didn’t look to be in great shape,” remarked Bonner.

martin-reilly-and-kevin-mckernan The Athletic Grounds surface has come in for criticism after Sunday's Ulster final. Source: Matt Mackey/INPHO

“I would have definite concerns about that. It has been fixed for Armagh so we can only take it that the powers that be will see to it that the pitch will be win a proper playing condition.

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“Both goals and going out 25 metres, it looked pretty dug up.

“It just looked like it cut up badly. The Ulster Council must think there’ll no problem. We have no issue with Armagh. It would be a concern with the state the pitch is in.”

Asked about Cavan’s come-from-behind wins over Monaghan and Down, Bonner said: 

“I’ve known Mickey [Graham, Cavan manager] for a long number of years. He did a brilliant job down in Longford before he came back to the Cavan seniors. They’re in a second Ulster final. Their match against Monaghan seemed gone and they pulled that one out.

“They looked dead and buried against Down, but they showed great resilience to win the game. There is a huge football tradition in Cavan. I know it. My work takes me into Cavan and there are some great GAA people in Cavan. We have to be ready for that challenge.”

Donegal are 1/14 favourites to repeat last year’s Ulster final win and complete the three-in-a-row against Cavan, but Bonner is taking nothing for granted. 

“I don’t pay too much attention to what is said on the outside. We met the guys yesterday and we’re back on the pitch tomorrow night. We’ll take nothing for granted and we’ll get ready for the challenge. Ulster titles aren’t handed out easily.”

Finally, he paid tribute to departing Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

“I’m slightly surprised. Mickey has been brilliant for Tyrone. He managed All-Ireland teams and minor, U21 and three seniors. Mickey owes Tyrone football nothing.

“He’ll be about somewhere along the line. He has been brilliant for Tyrone football, Ulster football and just football in general.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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