Carlow skipper insists they can cope despite 'disappointing' loss of talisman Murphy
It's difficult to estimate what the loss of a player like Brendan Murphy is to a county like Carlow, not just in terms of physical presence but in optics too.
After their longest championship run for 73 years extended to five games, including a Leinster quarter-final against Dublin in which the champions were denied a goal for the only game last summer, followed by promotion from Division 4, the optimism and interest around the county has been palpable.
And it sent out a message to other counties of similar resources that progress doesn't always have to be measured by silverware.
Thus, the timing of Murphy's departure to the US for the summer just doesn't seem in sync with the direction they've been heading.
Maybe it's the only opportunity he'll have for such a venture. But the flight of such a totemic figure as Murphy at a critical stage of the season is hard to reconcile with, especially in a county as progressive as Carlow have been over the last 18 months.
As "disappointing" as it, according to their captain John Murphy, they have never been in a stronger position to absorb it, he added, suggesting it "wouldn't be as big a loss as in previous years".
"A top-quality player, he's massive, a big disappointment that he went. It's just a matter of moving on. In the last two years a lot of players stepped up to the plate. Shaun Murphy is on board now, Jordan Morrissey, Seán Gannon, Eoin Ruth, Paul Broderick is after really stepping up."
Morrissey is required by the seniors for this championship but his loss will be felt by their U-20 squad, a contrast to the approach by Offaly with Cian Johnson.
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The lure of the US for those few months is strong, Murphy admitted, and with the GAA shutting the door on players who have played inter-county championship in that same year, decisions to go have to be taken much earlier now.
Prize "It's a big prize, it's hard. It's always been the way if you go back 20 or 30 years you hear people telling you, the lure of America was always there and players have always gone. But they have changed the rules and structures which means they can't play championship."
It looks like an opportunity for Carlow to progress again as they face a Louth team this weekend that's vulnerable after a seven-match losing streak in the league pushed them back down to Division 3 as quickly as they came up.
Murphy knows it's difficult to make a case against Dublin in the province but in a two-speed championship, he feels second place is not out of anyone's grasp.
"I don't think the gap between the rest of the teams is that far. So that's nearly the prize then. When you look at the draw in October, you look at it and think 'which side are Dublin on, which side are the rest on?' The prize then is to get to a Leinster final. That's far away down the line but we'll just focus on Louth first. Dublin are exceptional and well ahead."
Yet despite their optimism and last year's extended run the sentiment remains that league football will remain the best measurement of progress that they have. Brendan Murphy's departure would appear to embellish that.
"Everyone speaks of development, working your way up through the divisions. The championship run was great but the real satisfaction for players was getting promoted. Losing the league final was a big disappointment but if anything it has refocused us now ahead of championship.
promoted "When you look at other teams that got promoted out of Division 4, Louth, Clare, Roscommon, Tipperary. We have played all those teams, have beaten all those teams in Division 4.
"I see no reason why we couldn't follow suit. That's the dream, that's the goal next year in Division 3 to get promoted again.
"A lot of teams go straight up again, I see no reason why that can't be the main target for us going forward."