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Murphy Has Theories For Why GAA Players Struggle With Penalties

3 August 2019; Michael Murphy of Donegal scores his side's first goal from a penalty during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 1 Phase 3 match between Mayo and Donegal at Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar, Mayo. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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Michael Murphy's history of taking penalties in GAA matches is very much a "mixed bag" according to the former Donegal captain.

"I remember my first year with the Donegal seniors in 2007, just came into the side for the qualifiers," Murphy told the Second Captains podcast.

"My debut was against Leitrim and then our second day out was against Westmeath down in Mullingar.

"We got a penalty in the first five or 10 minutes of the game. I was sharing the full forward line with Colm McFadden and Brendan Devenney.

"Brendan Devenney got the ball, gave it to Colm McFadden, and Colm McFadden gave it to me! It didn't start well. That one was saved."

In the 2010 All-Ireland U21 final, Dublin defeated Donegal by two points. Murphy had a chance to win the game with a penalty in stoppage time but his shot struck the crossbar.

michael murphy gaa penalties

1 May 2010; A dejected Michael Murphy, Donegal, at the final whistle. Cadbury GAA Football Under 21 All-Ireland Championship Final, Dublin v Donegal, Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

"The U21 All-Ireland final was a shocker - [hit the] crossbar and lost the All-Ireland final for the team," he said.

"That was horrible. It cannoned off the crossbar. It was one of those big square crossbars. There was no hope of it even going over the bar or under it."


In the weekend's Ulster final, Derry defeated Armagh 3-1 in a shootout to win back-to-back provincial titles for the first time since 1976. It was Armagh's second shootout defeat in two seasons. They also lost 4-1 on penalties to Galway in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.

Along with the goal in Gaelic football being three-feet narrower than it is in soccer, Murphy has some theories as to why GAA players struggle to score from penalties compared to counterparts in the other code.

"The thing to compare penalties in Gaelic football to is soccer," said Murphy.


"It's a thing we watch quite a lot, and we see penalty shootouts in World Cups and FA Cups. Let's face it, they're kicking the ball on the ground for 90 minutes before that.

"Do GAA players kick the ball on the ground? Yes, there's free-takers that kick ball of the ground but in general we're not as accomplished at striking off the ground as soccer players.

27 March 2022; Michael Murphy of Donegal misses a second half penalty during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Donegal and Armagh at O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny, Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"Another one, similar to soccer, who is going to be in your 15 players at the end of extra-time? Some of your more accomplished [strikers of the ball], say the corner-forwards, may have been whipped off by the time extra-time is finished.

"If you look at the run-ups of Gaelic players, they look very cumbersome. Paul Cassidy [from Derry], there was a skipping step, and it looked like he was ready to kick a 45.


"My run-up to a penalty was very similar to my run-up for a 45. It's absolutely ludicrous, it's stupid. Because penalties happened every now and then during my time playing, it wasn't the number one thing to practice.

"It's getting to a stage now where they are so crucial, and goals are so crucial in open play - if you get a penalty, it needs to be put away.

"Last year, when the penalty shootout was brought in, we definitely did practice them in Donegal. We practiced after training most nights.


"It was in a semi-pressurised state in terms of we stood in the middle of the pitch and there were two teams picked. Records were kept."

michael murphy gaa penalties

14 May 2023; Paul Cassidy of Derry in the penalty shoot-out in the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Armagh and Derry at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, Monaghan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Murphy added that former Donegal goalkeeper Michael Boyle theorised that Gaelic footballers tended to strike penalties across their body.

"He always thought when the pressure really came on, a lot of the Gaelic players, because they were less accomplished, would kick across their body," said Murphy.

"Right-footed, they'd kick to the keeper's right. When I look at it, and I look at some of the penalties I missed, a lot of them were that way, across my body because you can really wrap your foot around it and get power.

"If you kick to the keeper's left as a right footer, you have to open your body up and it's harder to hit that with more power."

See Also: Gilroy Explains Why He Dropped Brogan From Dublin GAA Team In 2010

pat gilroy bernard brogan dublin 2010



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