Dream day for proud captain Murphy
North End United captain Paul 'Spot' Murphy has won plenty of honours and plaudits in the game, but lifting the FAI Junior Cup over his head in the Aviva Stadium next Saturday would undoubtedly trump the lot.
The talented playmaker collected an Oscar Traynor Trophy winner's medal with Wexford in 2010 under the guidance of his club manager John Godkin, has played at the highest level domestically in the League of Ireland, and his glittering performances have seen him recognised at international level, but to win the biggest prize with his North End clubmates would be on another level altogether.
'Getting to the Aviva for the FAI Junior Cup final outweighs everything; the likes of under-age international caps, amateur international caps that I've picked up. This would go to the top purely because of who I'm playing with. My brother, Jay, is on the team, my cousin is on the team, there's a real family feel to it and we have a great club atmosphere,' he said.
Murphy believes, as well as the obvious abundance of talent in the squad, that the camaraderie they have has played a massive part in bringing them to the biggest day in the club's history as they toppled giant after giant along the way.
'The testament to our togetherness as a group is the amount of away games we've come through. After Sheriff were knocked out, Janesboro became the favourites for the competition, and we went to Limerick and knocked them out. St. Michael's then became the favourites for the competition, we knocked them out. We also knocked out Killarney Celtic, who were second favourites at one stage. It is down to the fact that we're such a close-knit group, players and backroom staff. We're all in it together,' he said.
After navigating a path fraught with danger to reach the showpiece, the former Ipswich Town trainee says North End should fear nobody, and while realising they still have a tough job to do, he believes if they roll up their sleeves it's a task they can get done.
'Pike are probably coming in as slight favourites, but we played them three or four seasons ago in Belvedere and we beat them quite convincingly in the end so hopefully it will be the same result next week,' he said.
'We're quite confident in ourselves without being cocky. We do believe in our ability and we believe we have the measure of any team in the country.
'We've played every game away from home, we've been to tough places. Janesboro are 12 or 13 points ahead of Pike in the Limerick League. We went down there and won, we went to Killarney and won. We went to St. Michael's, who are probably the biggest Junior club in the country and we won down there, so we don't fear anyone and we're ready for next Saturday,' he said.
Murphy normally doesn't place too much emphasis on his role as captain, preferring an all for one, one for all approach, but admits there will be a lump in his throat when he leads his team out at the home of the Irish international side.
'I don't look too much into being the captain and don't wear a captain's armband. I'm not really into stuff like that, but next Saturday will be a bit different, leading the lads out on to the Aviva. It will be different to the usual league game on a Sunday, so it will be a massive honour for myself and for my family as well,' he said.
The 27-year-old says crossing the white line into the heat of battle at the Aviva Stadium is a dream come true for him and his North End team-mates and it will be a special day for the club.
'It's massive. You'd think it's never going to happen. The whole squad would have been up to the Aviva or the old Lansdowne Road at some stage to watch Ireland and you'd sit there and say to the lads next to you, "imagine one game out there with the Irish team". This is probably even bigger and better, imagine one game out there with your brother, your cousins and your best friends playing in the club's biggest ever game,' he said.
The performances of Murphy and his Sky Blues team-mate, Gary Delaney, have turned the head of FAI Junior international manager Gerry Davis, earning the talented duo a call-up for squad training in advance of the game against England, but it's all eyes on the Aviva prize at the moment and personal plaudits can wait for another day according to the captain.
'It's a great honour for both of us but if you asked either of us before the call-up to either win the Junior Cup or get the call I think both of us would take that winner's medal. It's a massive achievement for both of us and the club are proud of us as well but we'll take next Saturday first and then think about that after it,' he said.
On what is a huge occasion for the Wexford champions, Murphy said the squad will be thinking of Shane Dempsey and Lee Smith, who are unable to return from overseas duties with the army for the final, and they will use their absence as extra motivation on the day.
'It's a massive disappointment, not only for the lads, but for their families and for the club itself. The two boys have played a huge part. Shane has got some really important goals along the way and Lee never misses a training session and when he's needed you'll always get one hundred per cent from him.
'It's a real shame that they won't be there but hopefully we'll pull it out of the bag and when the lads are home we can celebrate with them as well.
'For two lads that have been with us not to be there is a huge motivation for us to do it for them,' he said.
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