Michael Murphy discusses the AFL, player burnout and setting an example for Donegal's next generation

The Donegal captain was speaking on Thursday's Off The Ball

Michael Murphy

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer 

He's not the last of his kind, but with the growing number of Donegal players stepping away from the county panel, he's becoming a rare breed.

Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye and David Walsh all announced their retirement earlier this month. They follow Eamon McGee and Colm McFadden who had already left the panel ahead of the new season. 

Leo McLoone and Odhran MacNiallais both have made themselves unavailable for the new season, while Anthony Thompson admitted he couldn't commit at the moment due to fitness issues.

That leaves Murphy as one of the last leaders of the team that lifted the Sam Maguire in 2012 and challenged to be the best in the country during Jim McGuinness' reign.

Ahead of the start of the National League campaign, Murphy admitted he can understand why players take breaks away from the game.

"There's a need to keep your body in peak condition for 11 or 11-and-a-half months is nearly needed to be done nowadays," he said.

"The intensity that you have to play in all games with your county is huge. The pace and intensity of the national league over the last few years has sky rocketed. The chance to build yourself through the national league and to the Championship is more or less gone."

Now in his 11th year with the county panel, Murphy discussed the issue of player burnout and about emerging as a figure that younger players can look up to.

"There's no denying they're going to be big losses. They are lads who have been soldiers for the county over the last seven, eight, nine or even 10 years. 

"We have to put the trust in these younger lads and give them pronged time. If it is this year, we'll go and grasp it but if not we'll keep plugging away towards next year."

Michael Murphy leads his team off the field after defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan 

At 27-years-old, Murphy has progressed through the ranks to become a leading figure in Donegal GAA, but admits the lure of the AFL and professional ranks did turn his head.

"The professional challenge is living and bettering yourself as player and getting your body into the peak physical condition everyday. Eating right and getting up at the right times in the morning, only having to think of your sporting career is definitely something that would have driven me. Something that maybe still does interest me and nags away at me that maybe I should have done it.

"But the idea of going to Australia and missing out on playing with Donegal for a number of years, when that was the thing I wanted to do and still continue to want to do, I still wouldn't have been able to trade that off. I'm happy with the decision I made."

He know takes part in The Toughest Trade ahead of the new season, where he will swap the yellow of Donegal to the slightly lighter shade of Top 14 rugby team, Clermont Auvergne.

Growing up, Murphy says he had a soft spot for the game.

"I always had an interest in rugby. It would always have been something that I'd have sat down and watched. You'd know basically all of the players around Ireland. I would have followed the European side of things and maybe a bit on a Saturday morning too down in the Southern Hemisphere.

"It was a game that I always enjoyed and if I was to take something up, rugby is one that I would probably have looked at ahead of soccer or any other type of sport.

"It's getting a lot of press at the moment in terms of the concussions and the batterings that certain players are consistently getting."

Asked what position he would prefer, he said: "I don't know, I was sort of speculating somewhere along the backs maybe. Hang out at the wing, maybe just lie out there."