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Counihan leads tributes as 'outstanding' Rebel Murphy retires

TOWERING Cork footballer Nicholas Murphy has called time on his lengthy inter-county career.

The Carrigaline clubman was a pivotal figure in the Rebels' midfield for many years, though was latterly used an impact sub, occasionally at full-forward. He first played for the Rebels in 1997 and won one All-Ireland title (2010) from four final appearances.

He won four Division 1 league titles and another in Division 2 -- a record for a Cork player. An All Star in 2006, he also captained his province and won an All-Ireland intermediate hurling medal.

Cork manager Conor Counihan said Murphy was "an outstanding player and a joy to work with. His commitment and attitude were second to none, and he led by example. He was one of Cork's greatest ever midfield players."

Elsewhere, new Dublin senior football boss Jim Gavin will travel to Carlow to make his managerial debut in the O'Byrne Cup on January 6.

Leinster have rejigged their pre-season competition into a new round-robin format, and the Dubs' group also includes top college side DCU and Wicklow.

Kildare are in a group that will include, for the first time, Carlow IT, as well as Wexford and DIT.

Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Athlone IT are in another group while Meath's section includes Longford, Louth and UCD. Kilkenny are not involved.

Leinster's decision to switch to a group format, which will produce straight semi-finals, means every team will be guaranteed a minimum of three games and, because of this, the O'Byrne Shield has been ditched.

But Leinster's hurling equivalent, the Walsh Cup and Shield, will remain in the same knock-out format.

All-Ireland champions Kilkenny will face either Westmeath or NUIG in their first game of the season and the Walsh Cup will also feature Galway, Antrim, Dublin, Offaly, Wexford, Laois, Carlow, UCD and DIT.

Bord na Mona have been retained as sponsor for all of Leinster's pre-season competitions but the Kehoe Cup draw is not expected to be made for another fortnight.

Irish Independent