Wednesday 22 November 2017

Murphy happy to be poacher turned goalkeeper

Eoin Murphy of Kilkenny was forced to pick ball after ball out of the Kilkenny net. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoin Murphy of Kilkenny was forced to pick ball after ball out of the Kilkenny net. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Disaster struck against Clare in April's league semi-final with Eoin Murphy forced to pick ball after ball out of the Kilkenny net after a Banner blitz which shook the hurling world.

But there's nothing like a sporting wake-up call which gives you a second chance, an opportunity to respond and make amends. Sixteen weeks later, it's a distant memory.

Clare's championship run is over and normal order has been resumed with Kilkenny leading the charge for another three-in-a-row starting with tomorrow's last-four clash against Waterford.

Serious questions were asked at the time, however, and while the usual endeavour of the Cats was present, uncharacteristic mistakes would have tormented Brian Cody and his players and they simply wouldn't tolerate lowering their lofty benchmark.

Murphy's league action had been minimal up until that point with a back complaint and Glenmore's run to All-Ireland junior success derailing his campaign. His eyes were ever so slightly off the ball but conceding four goals quickly changed that.

"I would say 1 to 36, it was a reminder that we had to put in work to get back to where we wanted to be. And we were just lucky at the time of year that it happened, we were able to put in the hard work to prepare for a Leinster semi-final," Murphy says.

"We knew we had a lot of work to put in and we did put it in. I suppose as a unit, the seven and maybe the nine if you include the midfield, we have played better since. You don't want to let your standards drop to how we played in the league semi-final. Tomorrow is another semi-final, you don't want it happening again because there's no back door, and it'll be a savage game."

Murphy knows the Déise well having captained WIT to Fitzgibbon Cup success two years ago as a forward but it's between the nets where he's made his name for Kilkenny, firmly nailing down the No 1 shirt.

As the fourth oldest of the Murphy sextet, goalkeeping was something forced upon him at a young age as All-Irelands were re-enacted in their back garden. And it's something which has stood him in good stead.

"You had to take your turn in goals whether you liked it or not. There were three older, I was taking the brunt of it and was bullied into goals. I had no other choice to get hit or stop the ball, so I got used to it," he says.

Murphy was initially invited into the senior squad as a goalkeeper and an outfield player but when PJ Ryan retired the 25-year-old's sole responsibility was between the sticks and he has adapted seamlessly. Although you sense there might be a burning desire to some day swap stopping goals for scoring them.

"I probably wasn't good enough for out the field," Murphy jokes. "I was asked what I thought of playing in goals and when they said there was an opportunity, I was jumping at the gun for it, I wanted to be there, wanted to be playing, any spot.


"When you are fighting for a position, once you are there, you don't mind as long as you are there, whether it is one, or two to 15, as long as you are on the team, I don't really mind.

"It (playing outfield) all depends on club form. It is up to Brian (Cody) and the boys then as well. Whatever situation arises, you take it on the chin and accept that. If they see me as an outfield player next year or the next day or whatever it is, I will take it on and leave whatever hurls at home and take the other ones."

His time outfield is a huge asset in goal as he knows exactly what the likes of Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly want every time he steps up for a puck-out. But having natural ball-winners also affords him the opportunity to launch it long when the need arises, and it regularly does.

"I suppose you don't want the ball coming down with snow on it either. So you realise what type of a ball a back doesn't like. You know what forwards like coming in front of them. You are trying to give a more favourable ball to a forward as well," he says.

"You have to practise hitting someone running into space, that is the way the game has gone. You have to adapt to how other teams are playing. It keeps you on your toes and makes it interesting.

"There does come a time when you are just going to have to hit it long. There might be nothing on and you have to win your own ball, you can't be gift-wrapped the ball every single time. Every forward has to win their own ball.

"You can lamp it up the field when you have the likes of Wally (Walsh), TJ (Reid), they can be dominant in the half-forward line. It does give you a bit of comfort."

Irish Independent

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