KC: This will be your ninth Championship and you’re still only 25. Ever feel like the oldest 25-year-old in Ireland?
MM: I never really think about it. You always know the date of your debut off the top of your head. A lot has gone on between Championship, League and McKenna Cup games, college, starting a business — there’s been a hell of a lot. You go through stages of life. I was still in secondary school when I made my debut.
KC: Inter-county football is all consuming. What do you do to switch off?
MM: I follow a lot of other sports. Try and play a wee bit of golf, though it’s hard to get any time for it at this time of year. My handicap is 14, and it should really be lower than that. As long as I stay below Neil Gallagher, I’ll be grand. He’s at 17, I think. I’d watch a lot of rugby and soccer as well.
KC: It’s your fifth year as captain. Few players have ever been captain for so long. Does the extra responsibility get the best out of you?
MM: There’s two ways of looking at it. When you’re performing, it does. When you’re not, it’s the first thing people point to — that it doesn’t suit you, doesn’t do this or that. We’re lucky that, from Paul Durcan up, there are a lot of leaders in the team.
KC: Are there other captains that you admire?
MM: The rugby captains tend to be highlighted quite a bit. The likes of Richie McCaw…I read his book and there’s something about the All Blacks that’s very down to earth. There’s no hullabaloo. They have certain simple core principles. Nothing is too high-tech or scientific. People are looking for fancy ways of doing things, new tactics, new such and such. The best way is simple core principles done right, done with a high intensity and done very, very well.
KC: When you’ve been captain for so long, how do you keep your message fresh?
MM: If it’s a core message, you try and make sure it stays the same, maybe change it ever so slightly. You do have to think and be on your toes, but it’s not rousing speeches that does it. It’s what’s done out on the training pitch. Players are smart. They know if it’s something stupid that’s not backed up. Actions are what count.
KC: Did you find it hard to park what happened last September?
MM: It’s hard to move on, it’s always there. It’s something that was your goal from the start of the year. We were close to it, but still miles and miles away from it. The most difficult part came when we weren’t together in October and November and December. But, once you get back for that first meeting, that first training session, you get a grasp for where everyone is again. Being together helps you get on with it, helps you get over it.
KC: Have you seen the new promo for The Sunday Game?
MM: I seen wee bits and pieces of it alright.
KC: Kerry are in it five times. Show you that history is written by the winners?
MM: Sport is like that. Representing Donegal is huge for us, don’t underestimate that. But winning is everything, and you soon realise that when you get beat.
KC: Between launches, press nights etc, you’ve given over 100 interviews but never given much away. Are you naturally a very private person?
MM: It’s difficult to speak in interviews going in to games. You imagine what the headline will be…but you’re mature enough too to know that, if you read through an article, the headline mightn’t necessarily reflect it. It’s an added pressure for some people. It doesn’t really bother me. When I was younger, it bothered me a lot more.
KC: Do you still live at home?
MM: Yeah, with my mother and father. That’ll be the routine for a couple of years yet.
KC: Does it suit you that you have your own tight circle of family and close friends?
MM: That’s it, that’s where I’m happiest. When you have a business, you have to be out there. If someone wants to chat about the game, you have to chat about it. But I enjoy that, and have always enjoyed it.
KC: After the 2012 All-Ireland final, Croke Park was alive with colour and noise. You walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand — just the second Donegal man to lift Sam — and the first thing you did was sympathise with then GAA President Liam O’Neill on the death of his sister. I find that remarkable.
MM: It was something I didn’t think about. There was a bit made of it afterwards, but it’s just something that you do. Once I saw him — I’d heard what had happened — so I just thought it was a natural thing to say.
KC: Where does that come from, your upbringing?
MM: It was just that I saw him. If I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have come into my head. It was a mannerly thing to do.
KC: Shane O’Donnell scored a hat-trick for Clare in the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final. This is what he said in a recent interview — “I didn’t want to go to a nightclub at all because I’d have the arms torn off me anywhere I went. I’d be standing in for pictures the whole time, so many pictures every night. And that’s all I’d do. That would be my night. And I didn’t want to do it at all.’’ Is that something you can relate to?
MM: It’s a decision you make. You’re needed to do these things, you’re needed to be speaking to media, need to be on Twitter, need to be out and about with the cup — but you’re not really needed if you don’t want to. If you go up to Churchill to the club after a game, you’re not going to be pestered too much.
KC: Donegal didn’t make the most of the 1992 triumph, but the county seems strong at all levels now. Is the future bright?
MM: You’d like to think that things are more positive, but I’m going to come with a cautious approach now. It’s still going to be a challenge and difficult, no matter what. Yes, we may have a conveyor belt with different teams but we’ll still have the challenge of players at 18, 19, 20, heading away to college. That’s still a huge issue. Employment here isn’t what it was. People will have to head to Sligo or Galway or Dublin or across the water to wherever to go to college. There is a thirst and hunger here within the county — there’s a lot of hungry coaches who want to be successful, and there’s a lot of young fellas who want to play for Donegal.