Wednesday 18 September 2019

Murphy shows army instincts to bounce back from 2016 heartbreak

Kilkenny's Paul Murphy. Photo: Sportsfile
Kilkenny's Paul Murphy. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Almost every sportsperson suffers a crushing defeat at some stage in their career and Paul Murphy's first All-Ireland SHC final loss in 2016 was a particularly difficult pill to swallow.

Having burst onto the scene in 2011 and collected All-Ireland titles in his first two seasons, a minor blip in 2013 was followed by another two Celtic Crosses in '14 and '15 with Murphy remarkably picking up four All-Star awards in their victorious seasons.

The Danesfort defender never knew the sickening taste of an All-Ireland final reversal until a year later when the walls came crumbling down around him in Kilkenny's nine-point hammering to Tipperary.

He had a tough day at the office along with full-back colleague Joey Holden as the Premier attack ran riot - their full-forward line fired a sensational 2-15 from play - but the pair have bounced back in spectacular fashion.

While others might shy away from dealing with the heartbreak, Murphy's army instincts meant he faced the setback head on and, like any good soldier, he stood up and was counted when the Cats needed him most.

"It could happen to you in a league match in the first week of February or it could happen to you in an All-Ireland final," he recalled.

"Unfortunately, it happened in an All-Ireland final that day. People afterwards would have said, 'How does that feel?'

"People will say, 'Do you feel more disappointed?' I think it's kind of an absolute feeling, you're disappointed you've lost the All-Ireland final. People will be curious then to see does it affect your confidence. It depends on how you want to take it.

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"You can put it down and say, 'Look, we've lost the match, we can move on'. I don't think there's any point in dwelling on it too much. You commit too much time and sacrifice too much to beat yourself up after it too much. It will serve you no good to dwell on it, or knock your confidence.

"Obviously, it was very disappointing, but we've moved on from there. It's a disappointing thing to experience but anything more than that, you're over-punishing yourself and I think we've shown that… myself and Joey were there that day, Joey has had an absolutely brilliant year and has had brilliant years since then as well.

"We've shown that you can park it. It's just something that unfortunately when you sign up, you might experience it. You have to take the lessons, move on and it's part of sport. Just get on with it really."

No motivation is needed when the same opposition stand in their way of another Liam MacCarthy Cup this Sunday and the 30-year-old is relishing being back in a final after the "strange feeling" of being a spectator.

"If you're not in an All-Ireland final you're going, 'What do we have to do to get there?' and, 'What am I doing wrong to get back there?' It's just that fight to get back there," Murphy said.

Kilkenny's place in the final comes against the odds as few predicted Brian Cody's men would make it to hurling's showpiece; that makes it even more satisfying given that success came easily in his early days.

"I was lucky to come into a panel at the time that nearly sprinted into an All-Ireland final. And I suppose year on year from then, it just seemed that the years were flowing along.

"You had players there that there was always a distraction … there were always questions of Henry (Shefflin) or JJ (Delaney) or these lads, how many can they win? So you were just on the journey really and you were getting your few All-Irelands.

"Having not been at this end of the year over the last two years, this one is hugely satisfying. It's probably the most satisfying one that I've been a part of with the battle to get here."

There's always fireworks when Kilkenny meet Tipp and that element of trying to get one up on their neighbours burns brightly for Murphy ahead of Sunday's showdown.

"Whatever the ingredient is, probably it's just the rivalry and the fact that neither side can stand to lose the ground to the other side because you know it can have repercussions down the line, it's just this rivalry," he added.

Irish Independent

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