Model mindset moved on from '08 final -- Murphy
Published 06/07/2011 | 05:00
David Murphy had only one thing on his mind in the second half as the 2008 Leinster football final trundled towards its inevitable conclusion -- the exit.
For Wexford's centre-back, and so many of his dedicated colleagues who had striven so hard for the four previous years to reach a Leinster final, it had been an utter anti-climax.
With Croke Park swelled to almost 80,000 it was an atmosphere many had never experienced before. However, Dublin sensed vulnerability and pressed on with a comprehensive annihilation of Jason Ryan's side.
"In the end it was a bad experience but I definitely remember the first half. It was point for point for about 25 minutes. We couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere," recalled the 29-year-old Rosslare man, an inter-county player since 2001.
"In the second half we just wanted to get off the field towards the end. I remember a couple of supporters came onto the field with five minutes to go and I just remember saying to the ref 'just blow it up'.
"You just want to get back to your dressing-room and get out of there, but we bounced back well that year. We won two weeks later against Down so we're not focusing on the final in 2008. It's gone now."
Much has changed since then too. In terms of personnel both sides can point to more than half a new team, and last year Wexford forced extra-time out of a Dublin side that benefited from their restoration to full strength after two men had been red-carded late in normal time.
"They got a run on us in the second half and maybe a bit of belief as well," reflected Murphy.
"I think that when the Dubs get a score on you it is all about slowing it down and not letting them rattle in a few scores after it. In 2008 they rattled off more than a couple. It is all about getting over the line but I think we are better equipped this year.
"It is all about getting a win over the Dubs now. We've been ahead and been competitive but we haven't got over the line. That's the next step."
A return to a second Leinster final in four years has triggered a much different reaction to 2008, Murphy has detected.
"After losing four semi-finals in a row (2004-07), when we beat Laois in '08 to get to the final it was a monkey off our back, big time," said the Model captain.
"This year there was no clapping ourselves on the back after Carlow -- it's full steam ahead, hopefully for a Leinster title. That's what we're looking for. There's a good atmosphere, good belief in the squad.
"Jason is the most positive, single-minded person I've ever met and he thinks about nothing but victory. I can see a difference in it already from 2008 when we were just happy to be there."
The most impressive feature of Wexford's championship season so far, apart from the quality of the attack, has been the seamless transition of so many new players into a team that looked to have fragmented over the previous two years.
The departure of Philip Wallace, Paddy Colfer and primarily Matty Forde looked like it would condemn Wexford football to another spell in the doldrums. But the response has been three comfortable wins and full exploitation of the easier side of the Leinster championship draw.
"With Matty going, Paddy Colfer, Philip Wallace guys like that gone, at the time you think guys like that are irreplaceable, that we were coming to the end of a cycle," said Murphy. "But there are always guys to come in and surpass expectations and that is what happened last year and this year.
"It was pretty much a new team last year and last year has stood to us. Games against Galway, Cork and Dublin have been a real help.
"We had a nightmare year in 2009. We were totally uncompetitive in Division 2 and then followed it with just one qualifier win so of course that sowed seeds of doubt but we were unlucky not to be promoted back out of Division 3 last year.
"Then we went up to Galway and won up there. Bringing Dublin to extra-time as well gives you the belief to perform at that level."
But confirmation that manager Ryan was reversing a decision to leave at the end of last year provided perhaps the biggest boost.
"He said it himself prior to the start of the last championship that it would be his last but when he signed up for a fourth year that made up the minds for a lot of us too and everyone is delighted that he came back," said Murphy.