Saturday 24 September 2016

Innovative Murray the brains behind Rebel operation

Success is all in the details for meticulous Cork chief chasing All-Ireland double

Daragh Ó Conchúir

Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30

Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray runs a mortgage company and accounting firm off the field but keeps coming back to inter-county camogie because he’s addicted to that winning feeling. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray runs a mortgage company and accounting firm off the field but keeps coming back to inter-county camogie because he’s addicted to that winning feeling. Photo: Sportsfile

Paudie Murray has a reputation for leaving nothing to chance. So when the target was set at the beginning of the year to have Cork competing in both the Liberty Insurance senior and intermediate finals at Croke Park today, he was never going to wait until the penultimate hurdles had been cleared to consider the logistics.

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Murray had his first dry-run in preparation for that challenge last March during the National League.

Ashling Thompson. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ashling Thompson. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland

He made his notes and much as he has done with Cork's now well-known but difficult-to-dismantle on-field structure, he fine-tuned the approach, repeating the test in July when the teams were in championship action.

Today, the squads will travel separately to Jones' Road, with eight mentors including Murray on the intermediates' bus. Another nine mentors will remain with the seniors.

He will have eyes in the stand (for both games) and when his focus must turn to the seniors, will leave the likes of his brother Kevin - a hero of the 1999 All-Ireland hurling final - to pick up the slack.

There are others in a backroom team of almost 20 people catering for both squads that have enjoyed the ultimate success. All-Star Niall McCarthy is coaching, while Teddy O'Donovan is one of the two goalkeeping coaches.

Murray is an All-Ireland winner himself, at intermediate and junior football level with Cork, but he was always destined for management, possessing an analytical mind and that essential penchant for details.

"I have a number of people helping me out with the intermediates to the point that they would be able to take over from me as well and I don't think there'll be any issues to be honest," says Murray.

"I will be on the line but I prepared for that a long time out. I will have enough bodies around, I have a good backroom team and everyone knows their job. If everyone does their job on the day there'll be no problem."

As well as being a manager in the truest sense, Murray is an innovator too. Just as in hurling and football, the camogie cognoscenti weren't taken with the adoption of a sweeper. It took three years to bed in and now, with Cork one game away from a three-in-a-row, the most common cant from opposition players is that they know what is going to happen but still fail to neutralise it.

How to stop Gemma O'Connor getting on so much ball? How to deny the ever-moving forwards the space they create?

What detractors fail to understand is that as well as being defensively sound, Cork are the leading scorers in the championship.

"The first thing is you've got to look at your tools and use them the best way you can and that's the way we have set ourselves up.

"In the All-Ireland final we will set ourselves up in a certain way. If Kilkenny come out and beat us at that, you've got to dust yourselves down, congratulate the opposition and get the train back to Cork. It's as simple as that. Once you get your team to play to the max, after that, there's very little you can do.

"Of course we will have Kilkenny analysed and they will have us done as well. I have a very good guy in Niall Collins who would spend maybe 11 or 12 hours breaking down every game for me.

"So it's very easy for me to sit down over a cup of coffee and look at our puck-outs from the game before. It's all there for me. I will look at the 21 puck-outs we had, see what we're doing and work on that. But we spend a lot of time on that."

The enjoyment is obvious.

"Winning is the drug. There's no question about that. Five years in it now. Will I be doing something next year? I will, whether it will be this or not. Some fellas prefer to be playing . . . me at the moment, I nearly prefer to be managing even though inter-county is quite taxing on everything really.

"I've my own business - a mortgage company and an auctioneering firm - so there's a lot of hours to go into that and you've a family as well so all that has to be taken into account. With inter-county, you're on a bus for seven or eight hours on a Saturday alone but to be honest, I probably wouldn't swap it for anything. Winning is what keeps you going.

"The people I admire are other inter-county managers taking over a team knowing very well that they're not gonna get to the business end of the season.

"Now, being Cork, there is its own pressure. [If] you don't get to an All-Ireland final you're in big trouble down here. So everyone has their own pressures."

By his reckoning though, Kilkenny and Ann Downey have more.

"I actually think the All-Ireland final is very fascinating in that you have two managers - one that's winning, one manager who the last time she was managing Kilkenny in a final [in 2009] lost; you have a team that has pressure on it because it's winning and a team that has pressure on it because it's lost the last six All-Irelands it's been in, three of those against Cork.

"You can talk about pressure but to me it's a very fascinating battle when you look at it from that point of view."

He describes himself as "annoyed" as he brought his players into the dressing room at Semple Stadium with the sides level after normal time in the semi-final against Wexford, because despite the mental and physical preparation, his players had stopped running at their opponents.

Having reinforced the message, he was confident that they would win in extra-time and they scored five points in a row to win by four.

He got his match-ups right too, with Rena Buckley snuffing out goal machine Úna Leacy and Laura Treacy excellent on the deadly Kate Kelly. He brushes off such praise though.

"I'm here five years. If I couldn't get my match-ups right, to be fair now, I shouldn't be around there to be honest. I don't think I deserve credit for that one."

He knows what to expect from Kilkenny and understands that some analysts think they might win. He isn't so impressed on the train of thought that new winners might be good for camogie, as you'd expect. Serial champions never are.

"Kilkenny have hurlers all over the pitch. Some people are tipping them. I don't think it's great for a 'Sunday Game' panellist to be saying it would be good for the game if Kilkenny would win. I think it was wrong for her to be saying it to be honest. I just probably hope that the referee doesn't think of it that way.

"I think space will be key. If Kilkenny get space there's no doubt they will beat us. They've moved around their team, with [Anne] Dalton going to centre-back, [Denise] Gaule going to midfield and Katie Power coming to wing-forward. It has certainly worked the last two games. They tend to pull out their players as well.

"But to go back to what I said earlier, if we perform to the max, there's very little we can do after that. It always comes back to that."

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