Friday 23 August 2019

'Heroic' Murphy driving the charge as Ireland plot series comeback

Michael Murphy with Zach Tuohy at Ireland training in Bendigo Bank Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Michael Murphy with Zach Tuohy at Ireland training in Bendigo Bank Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Martin Breheny ijn Perth

If Ireland succeed in overturning the deficit in Saturday's second Test against Australia, Michael Murphy's performance last Sunday will be recalled as one of the most remarkable efforts in the history of the International Rules series.

Ireland trail by 10 points but it would have been a whole lot more without Murphy, who scored 20 points (one goal, four 'overs' and two 'behinds'), despite being weakened by the stomach bug that hit several team members.

"For Michael to achieve what he did was heroic. He was flying on one wing," said Irish team doctor Kevin Moran.

Murphy played down his contribution but acknowledged that he had been feeling unwell in the days before the game.

"Quite a few lads were hit by it. A couple of days (before the game) I was drained of all energy but when you get out there and get the first rattle, the tail goes up and you're mad for action. I got through it all right in the end," he said.

Intense

The intense heat made it difficult for all the Irish players, let alone those who were feeling unwell, but they got through it in a manner that leaves them with a reasonably good chance of pegging back the deficit in Perth on Saturday.

Murphy will again be a central figure in Ireland's attacking half and is confident they can win by more than 10 points and retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup.

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"We need to take the game to the Aussies. The way they play, they want to control possession so we need to really take it to them from the off attacking-wise and concede less going the other way.

"I think we're capable of doing that. We need to take more of our chances. If we do, we can win," he said.

The Donegal man, who will win his ninth Irish cap on Saturday, is the most experienced member of the squad where no fewer than 15 players made their international debut in Adelaide last weekend.

He believes that the experience gained in their first game will be invaluable.

"No matter what kind of training you do back home in Ireland, there's nothing that replicates an actual game against Australia.

"It's much more frantic, much more demanding - it's like a game of pinball more than anything else.

"Having had a game, those lads will be a lot more comfortable. Of course that goes for the Aussies too. They've had another week to get used to the round ball as well, so they'll be better with it," he said.

The Irish team are spending this week working on areas of their game that misfired last Sunday while also studying aspects of the Australian approach that need to be counteracted.

Raising their accuracy when they have the ball is crucial for Ireland while preventing Australia from working their way up-field is also a priority.

"We weren't as precise as we needed to be. And when they had the ball, they used it exceptionally well.

"We'd be decent enough putting the ball through our hands but they bring it to a new level.

"If we create as many chances the next day, I'd be confident we'd take more of them but we also need to stop them too.

"They're not going to come here and score very little," said Murphy.

Australia scored two goals to Ireland's one, something that really should not happen, given the different scoring avenues in AFL and Gaelic football.

Murphy described the Australian goals - scored in the third and fourth quarters - as "momentum-changers" which highlighted how important six-pointers are.

Advantage

"When we got our goal (second quarter) we didn't kick on.

"There's a lesson there for us. In fairness, we lost Pearce (Hanley) around then, which was a massive loss.

"He has a huge knowledge of the game and how the Australians work. Losing his experience knocked us back," said Murphy.

He does not believe that the Australians have any real physical advantage over Ireland, except in how they power forward in packs.

"The way they run in numbers is hard to deal with. In terms of other areas of physicality, there's not much of a difference between us, certainly nothing that gives them a big advantage," he said.

Meanwhile, Monaghan's Darren Hughes has joined the squad, having been summoned as a replacement for Hanley.

It has been quite a week for the Monaghan man, who watched the first game at home with no idea that he was about to get the call.

"I wasn't long sleeping after the game, having got up to watch it. I was surprised to get it but happy to come out," he said.

He had been involved initially with the training panel back home but was forced to withdraw due to his commitments with Scotstown.

"I'm delighted to get this chance. It has been a hectic few days," he said.

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