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How a half-time tunnel chat set the scene for a goal for the ages and Dublin's historic five-in-a-row

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Dublin’s Eoin Murchan gets past Kerry’s David Moran to score his goal in the All-Ireland final replay last year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin’s Eoin Murchan gets past Kerry’s David Moran to score his goal in the All-Ireland final replay last year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dublin’s Eoin Murchan gets past Kerry’s David Moran to score his goal in the All-Ireland final replay last year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Classic opportunism or well-executed set-piece? Timely improvisation or closely followed script?

Accidental hero or secret weapon?

It has been passed off as common knowledge in conversations around Dublin since last September that Eoin Murchan's goal in the All-Ireland final replay was the product of a set-play, albeit one probably conceived with a different protagonist in mind.

"We do have moves for a lot of different scenarios in games," Murchan says now.

"I was aware of one, but I'm not sure whether that was it," he adds, somewhat cryptically. I certainly wasn't supposed to be a part of it anyway."

Still, the Na Fianna clubman recalls now how he "noticed in the first half that I'd found myself in a lot of space, consistently in acres and acres of space."

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Eoin Murchan promoting Aoibheann’s Pink Tie which provides financial and practical support to children and their families battling cancer. To help support Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, text ‘Pink Tie’ to 50300 to donate €2. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Eoin Murchan promoting Aoibheann’s Pink Tie which provides financial and practical support to children and their families battling cancer. To help support Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, text ‘Pink Tie’ to 50300 to donate €2. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Eoin Murchan promoting Aoibheann’s Pink Tie which provides financial and practical support to children and their families battling cancer. To help support Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, text ‘Pink Tie’ to 50300 to donate €2. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

So he resolved to make more of an attacking outlet of himself in the second.

"As we were coming out of the tunnel, I had a word with Jonny (Cooper) and just said, 'Look, at some point I'm just going to have a go'."

Have a go, he duly did.

Only seconds later, Murchan was haring towards Kerry's goal through the wide, green corridor opened by his team-mates, just too fast for David Moran to impede.

"I got dragged in towards the centre (from the throw-in) and was just lucky enough that so many things went right - and so many went wrong - in terms of both our midfielders ran into each other, essentially, which caused the ball to be knocked down in front of me."

Devoured

Once he collected the ball, Murchan devoured the ground, setting eyes on Shane Ryan's goal before any blue jerseys entered his line of vision.

"The two guys (Brian Howard and Brian Fenton) did a nice job of creating a path there for me - and with the rest of the fellas out of the way, I just kept going," he says.

"I thought somebody, Con (O'Callaghan) or Dean (Rock), would come to me and try to take the ball off me. But that just never happened. So I just kept on going.

"Eventually there was no-one to give the ball off to, so I just had to go for it myself."

The rest, as they say . . .

"I'm not quite sure that if we had done that set-move, things would have worked out the same," Murchan reckons. "But I suppose guys have an understanding from when someone does get the ball as to where they should go or shouldn't go."

"There was a move," he confirms, "but it definitely didn't involve me."

It's not unreasonable to suggest that scoring your first inter-county goal in a match with such deep historical resonance could have life-altering ramifications.

Murchan won't hear of it.

"It was one moment," he maintains, modestly. "It was fortunate that it was a goal but it alone wouldn't have won a game."

He is quick, too, to point out that the 2020 championship, whenever it takes place, "will be my fourth championship and I would hope I have a lot more ahead of me and would be able to impact in more ways than one singular incident."

As he is keen to stress also, the Dublin dressing-room isn't the sort of place where one might linger too long on their personal glories.

Which brings us neatly on to the subject of Michael Jordan.

Murchan, a Schools U-19 'A' League winner with Belvedere College and a former member of Tolka Rovers basketball club, has been "absolutely gripped" by 'The Last Dance,' the 10-part documentary about Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

The reveal of Jordan's Type A, domineering character - around whom everything and everyone else in the Chicago Bulls revolves - sparked debate about how such a figure might fit into other high-achieving dressing-rooms.

Jordan comes across as brilliant but demanding. Ultra-competitive but also self-centred, bullying and cruel.

Simultaneously revered by all who played with him but not particularly popular.

"It works in basketball, it's a much smaller team and personalities can dominate - and one player can really, really make all the difference in that situation," Murchan notes.

"In basketball, one player can totally change the fortunes of a team for the year.

"That's not quite the case in Gaelic. There's 15 players, usually 21, that will play on any given day - and it takes a panel of 35, or so, to go through a championship.

"So, having one player who dominates in such a way, I'm not sure would be feasible in Gaelic - and I'm not sure it's what we would want, to be honest.

"We feel our style of leadership works," he adds. "I've never really thought about the way Jordan does it.

"But I'm not sure that would work in many instances."

Irish Independent