Murray savouring Juve bonus after hard times
TWELVE months ago, any mention of an Italian Job to Dan Murray might have sounded like an elaborate plot to get hold of some money to pay the bills.
Murray was an employee of Cork City then, you see. And, as club captain, the Englishman spent his days dealing with myriad problems.
The constant uncertainty of missing wages and the anguish of broken promises made for a painful conclusion to 2009, with Murray finding it difficult to think about football with a baby on the way and no guarantee where the next cheque was coming from. Or if it would clear.
As skipper, he also had to consider the concerns of other players when, in truth, they were all in the dark. It's different now, with stability the buzz word. When young Caleb was born in April his father was settling into life at Shamrock Rovers, with the security of knowing that he would be paid on time and in full for his endeavours.
The headline-grabbing element of this summer has been a welcome positive experience -- the Europa League adventure that brings the centre-half to Italy this week for a showdown with Juventus.
"Yeah, it's probably nearly a year to the day that Cork went 'Pete Tong' (wrong)," said Murray. "We stopped getting paid pretty much from now until the end of the season.
"Touch wood, it's nice not to have that worry now. I don't want to jinx things by saying that, but it's a well-run club and I don't have to worry about too many things like that. We are still challenging to win something. The European thing is just an added bonus that has made it a better decision to move up here."
The troubled last days of the Tom Coughlan era took its toll on all at Leeside. Football became a sideshow to the persistent drama, with the players scraping around in search of cash to meet their commitments. Only now are they really getting back on track.
"It's a massive weight off the family's shoulders now," admitted Murray, "We are able to pay the bills. All the players in Cork are probably still catching up, having not got paid for three or four months before the club went bust.
"Definitely, it's nice not to worry about that and concentrate on the football. And it helps that we've a good team spirit here and it's going pretty well for ourselves at the minute."
So, what about Juve then? Tomorrow's second leg in Modena lacks an element of suspense, with respect to qualification for the next round; the Serie A side are well in control after their two-goal win in Tallaght last Thursday.
Yet, the 28-year-old wants to retain a competitive edge and take whatever he can from the exercise. His first-leg experience was topsy turvy, with difficulty containing the imperious Amauri at one end, and then the agony of coming within inches of scoring at the other when there was a solitary goal between the teams.
"They came and took the game really seriously," said Murray. "Most other people probably can't believe that Airtricity League teams are playing Juventus and it's even better to say it's not a friendly. They put as much into the game as they could.
"We know they'll probably make a few changes and bring in world-class players to replace their world-class players," he continued with a smile. "So it's going to be difficult but maybe it'll be a little easier because we're in a different stadium (to Juventus' normal home in Turin, which is booked up for a U2 concert). It might help us a little bit more.
"You want to be a Juventus player when you're growing up, and playing against them is probably as close as we'll get to that. It's a great chance to test yourself; you can only learn and try enjoy the experience as best you can because it doesn't come along often for players like us."
After learning perspective the hard way, he is entitled to savour the moment.