Niall Murphy remains an influential figure for Sligo.
Niall Murphy remains an influential figure for Sligo.

Niall Murphy remains optimistic

By Cian O’Connell

Niall Murphy has spent a decade on the inter-county beat with Sligo.

Entering a new Allianz Football League Division Four campaign the prolific forward acknowledges that his perspective has changed somewhat.

“I'm 30 this year so there is a realisation this year that my years are coming to an end, I suppose,” Murphy says. “It is worrying or scary going into that age group, but you get worried a little bit that you haven't achieved what you wanted to achieve in a Sligo jersey.”

That means Tony McEntee’s developing team are especially eager to make an impact in 2023. “You have a realisation that time is running out,” Murphy continues.

“I came in at 18 years of age back in 2012, we got to a Connacht final that year when we lost to Mayo by two points. So my introduction was that was the way forward, back then we wouldn't have thought twice about being in Connacht finals and winning Connacht finals.

“It was nearly a given back then. Going from where we were back then to now there has been a drop in standards so when you get to your 30s you get a bit worried that time is running out.”

Hope, though, remains a companion. Significant underage work has been carried out in the county, talent is beginning to emerge again. Potential exists.

“100 per cent, especially in the last two years with Sligo winning the U20s and U17s Connacht title,” Murphy responds. “You would hope to be bringing on these lads quicker if they could.

“In the next couple of years my hope would be that you'd see Sligo bringing back a Connacht title. Back in the noughties and early 2010s that was a given, Sligo were there quite regularly. I think over the next couple of years you will see that occurring a little bit more and more.

Sligo senior football team manager Tony McEntee.
Sligo senior football team manager Tony McEntee.

“Hopefully I'm still around. There is a good buzz back in the county with these young lads, I know there are good U17s and U20s teams this year.

“So there is a bit of an expectation around that they will be competing in a Connacht final again this year. They'll be the backbone of Sligo now for the next couple of years.”

The addition of Colm McFadden to McEntee’s management team offers another source of encouragement and ideas.

“Colm has been brilliant to be fair, he has been brilliant,” Murphy says. “We get access to him every night he’s there, and he’s there sort of on a weekend basis. 

“His knowledge around the game and forward movement has been really good, and we’ve had a big focus on forward play. But I do think over the year now you will see us moving a bit better with his extra knowledge. 

“He demands respect straight away from lads, he’s a big name down here, he has the experience of the All-Ireland finals behind him and we are delighted to have him.”

Sligo’s league campaign commences against Laois at Markievicz Park on Sunday with Murphy striving to secure promotion. “Absolutely, the goal for the league campaign is to get out of it and be in that final at Croke Park in a couple of weeks’ time,” Murphy remarks.

"It’s exciting, I think the likes of the young lads coming through and the new lads on the panel will give us our best foot forward with it. 

“It’s the goal to get out, and if we don’t get out we’ll look at ourselves as a bit of a failure, so we are putting that demand on ourselves to be promoted.”