Thursday 19 October 2017

Daryl Murphy enjoying his role leading the line for the Republic of Ireland

Daryl Murphy is relishing his role in the Republic of Ireland's World Cup mission
Daryl Murphy is relishing his role in the Republic of Ireland's World Cup mission

Daryl Murphy is relishing his emergence from Robbie Keane's shadow as his career moves into its twilight.

The 34-year-old Nottingham Forest striker has had to remain patient over the years with Keane extending his remarkable record to 68 senior goals in 146 appearances for his country before finally hanging up his boots on the international stage before the World Cup qualifying campaign got under way last year.

Plugging the gap he left behind has proved a major task, and Murphy was handed his latest chance to do it in Wales on Monday evening three days after marking his 30th cap with his second and third goals against Moldova.

His tireless contribution to a famous 1-0 victory which secured a play-off berth epitomised Ireland's industry and endeavour in Cardiff and left him hungry for more.

Murphy said: "It's even better because over the years when I've been in the squad, we've had Robbie Keane, our main goalscorer, our best goalscorer of all-time in the team, so you know you're not really going to get a chance.

"When you do get on, if you do get a bit of time on the pitch, you have to make the most if it.

"Recently, I've had a few opportunities and if the manager has the faith to start me in big games like he has done in the past, then I have to produce for him and thankfully I have."

With Shane Long having joined Jonathan Walters on the injury list ahead of kick-off, Murphy operated as a lone striker as the Republic gradually wore down the Euro 2016 semi-finalists before nudging their way in front through James McClean's priceless 57th-minute strike.

They then had to defend for dear life to preserve their slim advantage, but did so to spark wild celebrations on the final whistle.

Martin O'Neill's squad met up in Dublin last weekend knowing only two wins would be enough to keep their Russian dream alive, and just as they had done against world champions Germany during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and when facing Italy in Lille at the finals, they delivered when they had to.

Murphy said: "Listen, I said this the other night after we won, I said we come alive on the big occasions, we always have.

"You look at the past results we have had - Lille, we needed to win, we did. We know when we are up against it, I don't know what it is about us, it's just our character and the want to win.

"It's just a hunger, I think."

Murphy's own hunger was illustrated graphically by the physical effort he put into the victory.

O'Neill had joked after the Moldova game that his thirty-something frontman is usually "calling for a stretcher" after an hour, but played him for 78 minutes in Dublin and into stoppage-time in Cardiff in his country's hour of need.

When it was put to him that he might not have been expected to last so long, Murphy replied: "I didn't either!

"But you know what? The longer the game went on, I said to the lads I actually felt better. It was the game the other night I actually felt tired.

"The longer the game went on, I actually felt really good. It's just fitness, isn't it? You look after yourself."

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