Sunday 20 August 2017

'I didn't sleep great that night' - Kerry star Murphy bouncing back from Dublin error

Paul Murphy’s stray free-kick let Dublin off the hook in March but versatile Rathmore man is Kerry’s Mr Fix It

Hailing from the Kerry-Cork border Paul Murphy knows all about the importance of coming out the right side of a Munster final between the neighbours Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Hailing from the Kerry-Cork border Paul Murphy knows all about the importance of coming out the right side of a Munster final between the neighbours Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

On paper at least, it looked like a decent result. Over St Patrick's weekend in the league, Kerry drew with a Dublin side that had proved an unsolvable puzzle over them for the last couple of years.

The result halted a run of four consecutive defeats to Jim Gavin's charges and suggested this Kerry side had found a new ability to fly at their opponent's altitude.

But in reality it stung.

Tralee's Austin Stack Park was charged with a different type of energy that night. Dublin were in town looking to match Kerry's unbeaten run of 34 games set a whole 83 years earlier. No-one connected to Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side would admit it in the build-up but that record meant something to them. Or maybe everything. Kerry rarely have their pre-eminence in football challenged in such a way.

Dublin would equal the record that night and go on to break it a week later when they hammered Roscommon. But Kerry could have cut them short.

They were still a point up in injury time when Paul Murphy miscued a late free-kick. Dublin pounced and Paul Mannion secured a draw. Murphy retired to Rathmore that night but there was little sleep.

"It was a tough enough couple of days to be honest," he reflects, ahead of tomorrow's Munster SFC final clash with Cork in Killarney.

"Now I don't know what was said about me in media or online or anything like that. I'm sure there was a bit said about me, but I certainly didn't go looking for it. I was disappointed in myself and that was the big thing.

"It was a huge chance for us at the time and we made amends a few weeks later (in the league final), but I was kicking myself really for a couple of days really to be honest. It was just a basic skill let me down. It was a combination of executing the pass and not seeing - I think it was Kevin McManamon having watched it back once or twice - but I'm not too sure."

When the rest of the county went about wondering just what they would have to do to beat the Dubs, Murphy put his head down and went back at it. The following weekend they'd draw in Cavan. Kerry were unconvincing but on a personal level Murphy hit his marks and landed a point.

Ultimate redemption would come a few weeks later in the league final.

"I didn't sleep great that night, but generally it wouldn't keep you awake at night. I think most lads on our panel and on most inter-county panels would be hard on themselves. I personally, and I know a lot of the Kerry lads, would hold themselves to a high standard, and the fact it was a basic thing, a kick pass, that let me down it was hard to take.

"I've replayed that kick in my head I'd say a hundred times in my head now. I'd say 90 of the times I'd have kicked the ball as far down the field as the leg would carry it, but that probably wasn't the right thing to do either.

"The other option then would have been the goalie. The goalie is not being marked. It was about 45 yards out, but if he came to the 21 and played a one-two you'd have possession then in your hands and you can keep ball.

"Sure look you could torture yourself with that."

But perhaps if anyone can deal with the ups and downs of life in football, it's Murphy. He came into the senior squad in 2014 with little reputation to speak of. Like his club-mate Tom O'Sullivan, he didn't make the Kerry minor team but Fitzmaurice took him into the U-21 set-up when he was there. In 2014, the Kerry manager promoted him to the senior squad.

That summer he was handed the number five jersey that Tomás ó Sé had turned into a Kerry institution across three decades. Murphy didn't miss a beat. That September he delivered a man-of-the-match performance in the All-Ireland final win over Donegal.

Murphy was also the man they turned to when they needed a centre-forward more suited to their game-plan. He carried out it well too, even if he admits it goes against his nature.

"I probably consider myself more naturally a half-back, in terms that I played most of my underage football there, but I'd also be comfortable in the half-forward line too. If you're asking me what my favourite position is that could change from one month to the next. Centre-forward is a lovely position on the right day."

stationed Against Cork, he'll likely be stationed at wing-back but either way it's clear that Murphy is part of the plan. Hailing from hard on the Kerry-Cork border, a defeat would be a nightmare scenario, especially seeing as the Rebels' form suggests this should be straightforward for the Kingdom.

"They're great occasions to be involved in. With regards to the rivalry at home, it's a fairly intense rivalry to be involved in, but at the same time people aren't falling out over it. People are very into their football out there, but after the game they'll probably shake hands with their neighbours and they'll move on. (There are) families where you might have one supporting Kerry and some people supporting Cork out there. It's fairly intense.

"I wouldn't say we're in a no-win (situation). There's a huge carrot there for us. You've a load of different motivating factors. It's a Munster final so you've a Munster Championship. You have keeping our winning run going in Killarney.

"You're avoiding a back door, which this year more than any other year in the past there's a lot of danger in the back door this year.

"I would agree with you in the sense that Cork are coming in with the pressure off. They're coming into it in a nice position. As you said, they're probably being written off a bit, so they can cut loose basically, the pressure is off them to a certain degree. But we're in our own patch so we're happy enough with that."

Irish Independent

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