Minor maestro still as hungry as ever
Murphy eyes seventh title as Tribesmen boss
TO listen to the begrudgers you'd think that Galway only have to turn up to win a minor hurling All-Ireland and Mattie Murphy just hangs around for the glory.
Tomorrow's final against Waterford is the 11th they have reached during his three spells in charge, which have resulted in six of the Tribesmen's nine minor titles.
If it's glory-hunting Murphy was into, he could have put his feet up and just trained the minors last Sunday morning as usual. But the last weekend in August offers a special buzz for those addicted to the promising glow of underage hurlers.
That's when the best development squads around the country meet to play in a series of prestigious underage tournaments in Munster. So last Friday evening Murphy was out waving off the Galway U-14s as they headed to Waterford for the 'Tony Forristal' – the event at which he first led the county to a national title 22 years ago.
The next day he was to be found roaming the sidelines in Mallow, scanning several pitches filled with the country's best U-17 talent, where Galway's management included Eugene Cloonan.
Galway minor boss since 2003 – "except for one year (2007) when they didn't want me" – Murphy speaks his mind and doesn't suffer fools, but even his critics acknowledge that he has no club bias, as indicated by the 11 represented in tomorrow's starters.
A retired school principal from Turloughmore, who settled and raised his family in Gort, Murphy managed Galway's seniors twice in the '90s, winning National League titles both times.
He's been in the running for the senior job a couple of times since but it is as Galway's minor version of Brian Cody that he is best known.
So 21 years later, why does he keep coming back for more?
"When you come from where we were coming from, any time you get to Croke Park is a big day, you never tire of it," he replies.
"There's a certain innocence about lads at that age and, allowing for some overlap, you tend to get a new bunch every year so you're meeting a lot of new people all the time.
"When they come in you wonder how they'll develop, you'd pick out certain lads and hope they'll make a breakthrough – and then there's always the lad that surprises you and just comes out of the clouds.
"I certainly don't mind being wrong, and it's happened every year," he chuckles of those late bloomers who often give him most satisfaction.
Twenty-one years later, even the minor game is now much more physical but Murphy remains sceptical of a lot of the strength training that hurlers are now doing.
"If you don't do a small bit they'll say that fella is a dinosaur," he acknowledges, but he feels hurlers shouldn't be bulking up greatly and prefers his young players to use only their own body weight as resistance.
"What we're doing is aping the wrong game," Murphy reckons. "A lot of this strength and conditioning stuff is coming from rugby, and hurling has nothing in common with that game.
"Okay, maybe (you could adapt) athletics or boxing training, where you're looking at fast feet and flexibility and hand-eye co-ordination, but there seems to be a mentality that 'bigger is better'. Sure, if that was the case, would we be looking at lads like Tommy Walsh?"
Greyhounds provide his other big sporting interest and, while he no longer breeds or races dogs, he is now on the board of Bord na gCon.
But getting the best out of young hurlers remains his enduring passion, even if he is as puzzled as everyone else by Galway's inability to translate underage titles to senior medals.
Isn't the system wrong? Wouldn't it help if your minors also went into Leinster and got more games?
"I'd prefer something like a Champions League system," Murphy replies. "There's about 16 counties producing decent minors, so why not divide them into four groups of four?
"At the moment there's anomalies. Someone can be beaten twice and draw and still make an All-Ireland final. I'd prefer if it was the same for every team."
GALWAY – C Tuohy; M Ó Conghaile, D O'Donoghue, M Conneely; S Linnane, S Cooney, R Doyle; E Burke, D Dolan; C Whelan, R O'Meara, A Morrissey; B Molloy, B Burke, C Shaughnessy.
waterford – G Power; W Hahessey, K Daly, C Leamy; M Harney, A Gleeson, S Bennett; M O'Brien, T Devine; S Bennett, DJ Foran, M Kearney; A Farrell, P Curran, C Roche.
Galway v Waterford
Live, tomorrow, TV3, 1.15
MATTIE'S MINOR MIRACLE
All-Ireland victories: 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012.
Beaten in final: 1993, 2003, 2006, 2008.