Tough tests in training get Paul Murphy in shape for Déise exam
Published 06/08/2015 | 02:30
On Sunday in Croke Park, things will look less familiar for Paul Murphy.
For most of his Kilkenny career, he could look across the full-back line and be reassured. First he'd see JJ Delaney. Beyond him stood Jackie Tyrrell. It must have brought its own sense of comfort.
Sunday will be different. Murphy will be the senior man in an inexperienced rearguard.
Joey Holden has done well to step into legend Delaney's shoes after his retirement while Tyrrell misses out this weekend through injury, leaving the door open for a new face to step into the breach.
Murphy should be ready for that new level of responsibility. Continuing Brian Cody's long-standing tradition, he served a lengthy apprenticeship before becoming a fixture in the side.
He was first called up in 2009 but didn't play Championship for another two years. Since then, he's become part of the leadership group in the dressing room, particularly in light of last winter's defections.
"With Tommy, JJ, Brian Hogan, there was automatically leadership there. And Henry as well," Murphy said.
"But the leadership has changed and other lads have maybe said a few words before a match.
"In terms of training that dynamic has changed too but we have only lost one player who started the All-Ireland final last year. From that point of view we're not fazed.
"The likes of TJ, Richie, myself, we probably have to stand up and show what we've learned in the last few years but that's the only change."
That waiting period can be frustrating but there's little doubt that it serves Kilkenny well.
And Murphy believes it reveals a player's true character when he is forced to wait for a chance long after he might have gotten it elsewhere.
"You have to be patient. You can't expect to come in and start because you've an All-Ireland minor medal, for instance.
"You learn a lot about a player if he serves his time and comes through after a few knocks - you see the determination in him, and the jersey's that bit sweeter as a result.
"If you're watching lads win All-Irelands or Leagues, you want to be out there, and the graft in getting there makes it sweet, and if you get the jersey you're determined not to relinquish it, too.
"Fellas do come in, Walter Walsh did it in the All-Ireland a few years ago, and fair play, but it's very hard to do. Fellas get experience in that way.
"Ger Aylward is another fella - he played against Tipperary in 2013 but again, he spent last year not really in the reckoning, he didn't get a start.
"This year fellas were probably looking at Kevin Kelly, John Joe Farrell, but Ger never gave up and proved himself against Wexford.
"It was last-minute, maybe, but he got his head in the door and proved himself."
The Kilkenny full-back line will get a different kind of test this weekend. They could be left marking space rather than following a man. It's an extra headache for a line that won't have played together much at this level before.
Still, Murphy believes he and his team-mates get the best possible preparation at training every week as they try to put the shackle on the likes of TJ Reid, who Murphy believes is a bigger physical threat this year, and Richie Hogan. "It gives you great confidence, marking TJ in training. You can see how hard it is, and before a match you think, 'Well, that's their problem now'.
"And any forward coming in on you, you think, 'Well I've been marking TJ the last few weeks, so hopefully I have an edge here'.
"(TJ) is selling calf nuts, maybe he's eating a few of them. He's bigger, but he's very dedicated.
"He probably realises that it's not enough to be skilful, that players in hurling and football have to be physically fit. The idea you just puck a ball off the wall is gone.
"Richie's been doing some unbelievable things on the pitch for years, but particularly the last 18 months.
"And you see that in training and you know that in a match (he's) on your side. Mentally going into a match it's a massive lift knowing that.
"You can't not be impressed with Waterford this year, they're League champions and they were unlucky in the Munster final.
"When Dublin put it up to them the last day they had leaders to stand up, the likes of Maurice Shanahan and Kevin Moran. They've just been so consistent the last while.
"It was tough in Thurles the last day with the rain that came down but they still looked impressive."