Tuesday 20 March 2018

Walsh and Murphy flying in opposite directions

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

IT'S a tale of two swans, one past, one future.

When the International Rules series is completed on Friday week, Tommy Walsh will make the 600-mile trip from Gold Coast to Sydney to begin the next phase of his Australian Rules career, while Brendan Murphy will face an 11,000-mile journey back home to Carlow.

In different circumstances, Walsh and Murphy might have been colleagues at Sydney Swans, but their life paths have taken different directions over the last two years. Walsh (23) spent both in Melbourne, learning the AFL trade with St Kilda before accepting an offer to join Sydney Swans a few weeks ago.

Murphy (22) was with the Swans for two years (2007-2009), but decided that Australian Rules wasn't for him.

Meanwhile, Walsh, who left for Australia in late 2009, is still focused on making it big in the AFL and sees the Sydney deal as the right move at this stage of his career.

"I was at home (in Tralee) when my manager spoke to me about joining another club and it went from there. It was a hard decision to leave St Kilda, but I felt it was the best thing for me. Going to Sydney will be a fresh start which is just what I need at this stage," said Walsh.

Walsh's opportunities were limited at St Kilda, but then AFL is a tough business, one which he remains determined to conquer.

"I came out here to make it and I'll work as hard as it takes to see that I do. There are always setbacks of course, but you have to keep pressing on. It's frustrating sometimes when you're not getting games and you think you should be.

"I always knew how hard it would be, but I learned a lot at St Kilda and now Sydney are offering me a great opportunity. It's up to me to make the best of it," he said.

Murphy had similar ambitions when he arrived in Sydney as an 18-year-old in 2007, but after two years, in which his progress was hampered by injury, he returned home.

He has fond memories of most of his spell in Sydney, although he gradually began to realise that AFL wasn't for him.

"It got to the stage where I was turning up to training and I wasn't enjoying it. When that happened, I said to myself that there is no point in staying out here. It was my decision to go to Australia and it was my decision to return home," he said.

Murphy joined the Army last February, embarking on a career which he is already enjoying.

"It's a steady job for the rest of my life. I am happy with the way things are going," he said.

Playing for Ireland with some of Gaelic football's biggest names delights Murphy, who, through an accident of geography, knows that it's most unlikely he will experience Croke Park as a player on All-Ireland final day.

Still, the search for personal goals remains and are helped by mixing with so many talented colleagues from all over the country.

"When you come out here and see players like Kieran Donaghy and Steven McDonnell, it gives you a gauge of how good they are and how good you need to be if you want to progress yourself," he said.

Murphy will almost certainly finish his career without an All-Ireland senior medal, a prize already pocketed by Walsh in 2009 when Kerry beat Cork. And while progressing in the AFL is his current target, Walsh says he would love to return to play with Kerry at some stage.

"You never know what's going to happen from year to year. Here is my priority now, but I'll always have a burning desire to play for Kerry and I'd like to think it will happen again at some stage," he said.

He attended this year's All-Ireland final as a spectator, which he found more nerve-wracking than if he were playing, not least when Dublin staged that dramatic late match-winning burst. He felt that Kerry were unlucky not to close out the deal, but gives Dublin huge credit for rescuing what seemed like a lost cause.

Walsh and Murphy will be key figures in the Irish set-up for the two Test games over the next two Fridays and have broadly similar views on how Ireland should approach the games.

"We went away from our natural style as Gaelic footballers last year and played into Australia's hands. With the talent that's in our squad, it's a question of getting the ball to people in the right area," Walsh said.

Skill and speed are the key essentials for Ireland, according to Murphy.

"I think the way to win the series is by playing fast flowing Gaelic football. If we do that and we're accurate with our passing, we should win," he said.

Murphy can provide Walsh with a picture of what life is like with the Sydney Swans during their quieter periods in Melbourne's Grand Hyatt Hotel this week, before they unite as part of the Irish assault on the first Test in the Etihad Stadium on Friday (9.45am Irish time).

After that, their paths will deviate as Walsh heads for Sydney and Murphy returns to Army life on The Curragh.

Irish Independent

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