Eoin Murchan: Diminutive Dubs defender shows smarts can trump size
Eoin Murchan will likely be the smallest man on every pitch he walks onto. Yet most attackers would recoil in dread at the sight of him walking towards them. The defender is a complete plague, as sticky as your shadow he will hound his man by staying touch tight for almost every moment he's on the pitch.
Standing at 5'5” the Na Fianna man has given up a few inches in height and kilos to his opponents in virtually every game he has played since the age of 14. On paper it is a mismatch but on the pitch he has been instrumental in curtailing some of the best attackers in the country this season.
His success at senior level will come as little surprise to those who have followed his fortunes at underage level, the Dubliner excelled as a man-marker and his short stature never hindered him in any way. Murchan was immense in the 2017 All Ireland U21 Championship and left Michael Daly frustrated as the Dubs edged the game by 2-13 to 2-07.
When he made his starting championship debut he was given the tall order of marking Ryan McHugh in the Super 8 clash with Donegal. Murchan’s introduction at that stage came as a shock to many and perhaps even some within the Dublin camp, the Na Fianna man made just one appearance in the Leinster SFC as a half-time substitute in their quarter-final win against Wicklow in Portlaoise.
He was an unused sub for the Leinster semi-final win over Longford and failed to get on the field as the Dubs won the Delaney Cup with a comprehensive victory over Laois. Murchan though became a mainstay of the team when the business really began and he started two of the three Super 8 clashes, his perfectly executed man-marking mission on Niall Sludden in Omagh was a sight to behold. He hounded poor Sludden for the afternoon. Ryan McHugh was also left frustrated after a day spent tussling with the nuisance defender.
He was among a number of players given the weekend off for the final game of the Super 8 section, a facile victory over Roscommon. The game against Galway proved his toughest test and the youngster showed signs of nerves for the first time this summer as he struggled to get to grips with the game, his day ended when Mick Fitzsimons came off the bench and put in a solid display.
In his first All Ireland final the Dubs defender showed composure and grace beyond his years as he helped Dublin secure an historic fourth All Ireland title on the trot, his influence will not be contained to that performance, there is something incredibly inspiring about watching a guy of that stature compete and beat guys who tower over him. Murchan is the personification of the old adage: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.”
There'll be a boys and girls around who believes their height will stop them from achieving their dreams, watching Murchan stand tall with Sam Maguire will convince them that big things come in small packages, inspiring future generations of footballers is as meaningful a contribution as any player can make in their sport.