Saturday 16 December 2017

Murphy: 'Last year a write-off because we didn't win the All-Ireland'

But Kilkenny goalkeeper aiming to build on his 2016 heroics and help the Cats return to hurling’s summit

Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

There may never be a more fitting backdrop to an interview than Kilkenny goalkeeper sitting before the assembled media with a picture of the legendary Ollie Walsh hanging above him.

Walsh is photographed soaring above the Cats' crossbar to grab a score-bound sliotar in the dying minutes of the 1967 All-Ireland final as the best efforts of Donie Nealon and Tipp were thwarted.

Nearly six months ago to the day, Murphy produced his own piece of goalkeeping brilliance when securing Kilkenny's final place with a jaw-dropping catch to deny former Waterford IT team-mate Pauric Mahony and the Déise with a last-gasp free.

Murphy plays down his spectacular display of skill and athleticism with his usual understated manner saying that they regularly practise similar scenarios in training and "it didn't mean much after we didn't win the All-Ireland".

"Afterwards when some of the lads said it to me, I was like, 'Jesus like if I'd dropped it in the goal'. When you're playing in a match some of these things just come naturally to you," Murphy said at Glanbia's sponsorship launch.

"When you're a young lad and stuff like that, even some of the boys, some of the passes that you'd do in a match or whatever it is, if you're in training or pucking around beforehand you mightn't think of it but because it's in the heat of the moment you do those sort of things.

"It's sort of a natural action more than anything else. I didn't really think about it, I just knew when it was halfway through the air that I was going to be in a position where I could make a play on it.

"Because there were so many players in and around the box as well you couldn't take the chance of taking it down with your hurl. I still sort of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn't feel comfortable with it, I was going to pull out of it.

"You couldn't take the chance. I just timed the jump just about right and if it was any higher, I'm not that tall anyway so I wouldn't have got to it, no! Look, that's the way it goes. It fell for us that day, it didn't a couple of weeks later."

The 26-year-old, who is equally adept in midfield or attack and won a junior club All-Ireland title outfield with Glenmore last year, pulled off a string of point-blank stops in their subsequent defeat to Tipperary and despite the honour of a first All-Star last winter it came with "a tinge of regret".

Every year without Liam MacCarthy making his way back to Noreside is a "write-off" in Murphy's mind and performances matter little when hurling's holy grail slips through your hands.

"If you make plays and you win, that's all well and good but if you make plays and you lose it's still not worth a damn at the end of the day. You're here to win trophies and medals as much as you can. We won Leinster but it was a complete write off because we didn't win an All-Ireland. We're no different from any other county. We just want to win an All-Ireland really," he says.

With a slowdown of underage success, in comparison to other previous golden generations, and with high-profile retirements like Jackie Tyrrell and Eoin Larkin, there's a train of thought among many hurling folk that Brian Cody's Cats will struggle to scale hurling's pinnacle again.

Murphy has no fear that the end of an era is coming, however, and with four Celtic Crosses already to his name he plans on adding to his collection. "It's been a revolving door the last couple of years with so many lads going. But there's lads stepping up to the plate," he says confidently.

"Pádraig Walsh, (Cillian) Buckley and Conor Fogarty are hurling phenomenal stuff the last few years and Richie (Hogan) and TJ (Reid) in the forwards have been carrying stuff on. There's new guys coming in. There's about ten lads under the age of 22-23 that have been around the panel and will gain experience throughout the league as well."

One of those is his younger brother Alan, man of the match in their All-Ireland club win last February, who is "bugging the life" out of him coming up and down to training together but there's a real sense of brotherly love in the Cats camp.

"The two of us would be bating the heads off each other at home so we have to be a bit civilised in here. He just has to take his opportunity when it comes like everyone else. He's just another team-mate," Murphy says.

"I play with him at home along with two other brothers so I don't see any difference, it's the same with TJ Reid and Richie as well and Michael and Colin (Fennelly), you don't treat him any differently, probably a little bit harder on him actually."

Murphy was part of Kilkenny's Walsh Cup win last Sunday but the real action gets under way in Nowlan Park tomorrow where they renew acquaintances with Waterford, a side he holds in the highest regard, in the league.

"Physically, they've come on leaps and bounds and they're not afraid to go man on man, it just shows the confidence they have in their own ability. After winning the U-21 the confidence is going to be through the roof and physically they're going to be that extra year older so they're going to be coming on in that regard."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport