Sunday 15 September 2019

Murphy: There is a concern we are conceding too much

Kerry defender Paul Murphy relishes the challenge of finding chinks in Dublin’s armour. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kerry defender Paul Murphy relishes the challenge of finding chinks in Dublin’s armour. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Frank Roche

The clock was ticking beyond 61 minutes when Colm Cooper produced one of his trademark 'Gooch' assists, locating Paul Murphy in a pocket of unguarded space just beyond the 'D'.

Murphy accepted the invitation with an outside-of-the-boot flourish, and Kerry led by three in that pulsating All-Ireland semi-final of 2016.

Back then, Dublin had yet to decipher the secret of two in a row, let alone three or four - or more. But they had already proven themselves to be a team that didn't buckle in the red zone. This was one such moment: 2-13 to 0-16 adrift.

Their response was to land three on the spin in the next five minutes, before sealing the deal in stoppage-time to win by 0-22 to 2-14. The rest is history in the making. But what of Kerry?

"We were in a good position but did not finish it out," admits Murphy, looking back on that 'what if?' watershed.

"Dublin back then, just as they are now, will play for 75 or 78 minutes and they finished the game strong. We were very disappointed but I'm not sure what significance or relevance it will have to Sunday's final."

So, here we are: Dublin within tantalising reach of a famous five while, for Kerry, it's all about the one-in-a-row.

"We are just trying to win our first one, so that is big enough for us," says Murphy, whose sole Celtic Cross and solitary All-Star both date back to 2014, his maiden campaign.

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Significance

"They are going for five in a row so the significance of that is for Dublin only. One All-Ireland is huge which gives you an indication of what Dublin have achieved in the last four years… and to be going for five in a row is phenomenal altogether. But last year doesn't matter, next year doesn't matter to us - it's all about the here and now."

Still, in Kerry of all places, the significance of what's at stake cannot be airbrushed. Here is a chance for Kerry to 'do an Offaly' on it, 37 years later. Surely that brings its own pressures?

"I don't think any of us were even born in '82!" protests Murphy, 28. "No, it's not in the thinking at all.

"We are just looking to win one and, if you get bogged down on that, you are probably wasting energy on something that Dublin have to be focusing on.

"As for pressure from the Kerry public, possibly with the older generation - yeah, they are hoping we can stop the five-in-a-row. But we can't waste too much energy on that side of it."

That 2016 semi-final was Murphy's only SFC start against the Dubs; he entered off the bench during the fourth quarter of the 2015 All-Ireland final.

"A strange game," he says of 2015. "Conditions had a huge bearing... Dublin were the better team and coped with the conditions much better.

"Then 2016 was a two-point game and that could have gone either way. You would have regrets about those games but, on the other hand, credit has to go to Dublin because they are two tight games that they managed to win."

The Rathmore clubman continues: "They have rarely let their performance slip over the four years, and they have been incredibly consistent through league and championship. It's really been the cornerstone; it's that consistency that has carried them through."

But is it diluted, at all, by the arguments over Dublin's population and funding?

"I know a lot of people talk about the advantages they have off the pitch, but it's still 15-on-15 or 26-on-26 when it comes to the field of play," he demurs.

"People talk about Dublin's population, the numbers playing and having an oversupply of numbers as opposed to Kerry clubs struggling to field teams.

"However, those huge numbers create challenges as well in making sure everyone gets games and that you have enough volunteers to cope."

As D-Day approaches, Murphy is more concerned about Kerry ticking all the boxes for the ultimate challenge.

Praising the input of coach Donie Buckley to Kerry's tackling and all-round defending, he adds: "There would still be a concern amongst ourselves, though, that we are conceding probably a bit too much, like we did with 18 points against Tyrone, and conceding some soft frees as well.

"I am sure we are going to be seeing plenty of video on Dublin before the final, especially the start they got to the second half against Mayo which was incredible. We know it is going to be tough to find chinks in their armour, but it is a challenge we are relishing."

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