Friday 30 January 2015

Footballer Juliet Murphy is a natural-born winner

Juliet Murphy's impressive haul of medals means she is one of the greats of ladies' football, but she is just as busy off the field, writes Alison O'Riordan

Juliet Murphy photographed in UCC indoor running arena Cork City
Juliet Murphy photographed in UCC indoor running arena Cork City
Juliet Murphy photographed in UCC's indoor running arena. Picture Clare Keogh
Juliet celebrates Cork's All-Ireland Ladies Football Final over Monaghan last September. PHOTO: SPORTSFILE
Juliet talks to Dáithí O Sé after receiving the Players’ Player of the Year award at the 2011 All-Star Awards in Dublin.

Eight-time All-Ireland winner Juliet Murphy may have announced her retirement from both inter-county and club football in July last year but that doesn't mean the Irish sportswoman has turned her back on all things active.

The 33-year-old from north Cork has had a glittering career playing with her local club Donoughmore where she won the Senior All-Ireland in 2001 and 2003 and then went on to captain Cork to three All-Ireland triumphs in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and amazingly winning another five titles there after.

"My Dad represented Ireland at road bowling (an Irish sport in which competitors attempt to take the fewest throws to propel a metal ball along a predetermined course of country roads).

"He also played football and my three older brothers play football locally and my sister Marguerite plays basketball. My parents were keen to have us all involved in sport at a young age," said the ladies' Gaelic football player.

One of the most decorated players ever to grace the game, as a child she would play Gaelic football at home with her brothers and then at weekends her cousins would call over for contentious soccer matches.

"My brother Ollie taught me how to solo and kick. In school I played with the boys' team as there wasn't a girls' team and when I turned 11 years of age, I joined the local ladies' football team in Donoughmore.

"It was always competitive I suppose. Even in school we had the Sciath na Scol competition (a schools-based organisation which organises Gaelic games in the primary schools of Cork) and we played with the boys. Our club team were always very serious about football and our coach Mossie Barrett ensured we placed football at the top of our priority list."

A natural to all things athletic, Juliet also played basketball with Ireland from 15 to 21 years of age.

"It was a great start to get in terms of high-intensity training and good nutrition. In those days we stayed in the squash courts of the various halls around the country, just our sleeping bags, pillows and cassette players to our name," she says.

When the sporting fanatic first played football with Cork at underage, the team would travel all over the county to train.

"We had great times playing. We didn't have any success at senior level at all. At that time players had more of a focus on their clubs and didn't commit hugely to inter-county football."

However, it was playing with her local club Donoghmore that the Cork native won All-Ireland titles in 2001 and 2003 which she calls "amazing times".

"We used to travel in convoy to all the games. It was like being in our own army. It was such a fantastic time which almost spanned two decades. Our greatest win was against our nemesis Ballymacarbry of Waterford. We had failed to beat them for so many years it was unbelievable to finally get over the line against them."

Captaining Cork to All-Ireland titles for three consecutive years in a row, 2005, 2006 and 2007 was a "great honour" for Juliet and it is something she reflects on with huge affection.

In the intervening years, the midfielder and her 14 teammates success continued, with them winning the All-Ireland five more times in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, losing out only in 2010, with Dublin claiming the Championship in the end.

"We got beaten in 2010 by Tyrone in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final. We were devastated as we thought it might have been the end of an era for the team. However, in December of that year we met and decided we all wanted to give it another go. Thankfully it all worked out."

Winning never seemed to be out of the reach for the modest Cork girl who was considered one of the best, if not the best who played the game, picking-up five All Stars, as well as player of the year in 2011.

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