'Awards are nice but I won't get fooled by them' - Murray
Conor Murray still working hard to improve, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor
He may have added the Rugby Writers Award to the Players' Player of the Year gong he picked up in May, but Conor Murray is not about to start resting on his laurels.
A stellar year with Munster, Ireland and the Lions was marked last night at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin where the scrum-half completed the double won last year by his team-mate CJ Stander.
Murray had an exceptional year, starring in the famous win over New Zealand in Chicago a year ago and playing a central role in Munster's run to the European Champions Cup semi-finals.
Although a neck injury halted his progress in the Six Nations and ruled him out of the European semi-final against Saracens, he bounced back to earn his place on the Lions tour of New Zealand where he started all three Tests as the tourists tied the series 1-1.
Follow that? He's determined to kick on and with this month's international series looming his focus is now on a better season for Ireland.
"Awards are nice, definitely, and this year gone by has been good to me and there have been good performances, but you don't get carried away by them either," Murray said.
"If I hadn't had got any of these awards I'd still think the same. I'd still look at a couple of games last year and see little things in my game that I want to get better at because the competition is hot everywhere you go and I genuinely mean that.
"You're 28, you're here for a while now and you really appreciate it. The older you get you really appreciate it and you understand how hard it is to get in here and stay here so you just want to keep doing it as long and as best you can. That is the most simple way of explaining my motivation. I've targets in my head and things I want to get done this year that I'll keep to myself. I like doing that, setting goals for myself but it's just about being the best you can be.
"I know I'm not pushing on retirement but you want to keep going for as long as you can at a high level. I'm competitive, I want to stay here and get better and see how good I can get. That's my motivation."
Despite being universally recognised as a world leader in his position, Murray says he is working hard to improve his game.
"There are still things I have to work on, definitely," he said.
"Working closely with Jacques Nienaber (defence coach), after training it's usually me and Andrew Conway, we'll do a bit of contact work in defence, little things like that, that you know are going to make a difference if you keep working on them and keep improving. That's the aim of the game.
"Awards are really nice but I wouldn't get fooled by them. I'm not going to say I've got this award and now I can just chill out.
"It doesn't work like that. The coaches here, we've a new camp, new players and we're talking about the series coming up and it's all about that.
"You just try and get yourself right for that and it moves forward like that very quickly.
"So this is nice, it's nice to reflect on and nice for the family to have on the mantelpiece at home but the show must go on."
Ireland have been in camp since the weekend and Murray is busy getting to know all of the new faces who have either been called in for the first time or who made their debuts in the United States and Japan last summer.
"There's a lot of new faces, which is exciting to see," he said of the squad for the clashes with South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
"We went out for a meal on Sunday night, just getting to know lads you might not know that well, you know, like Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter, all these new faces that I wouldn't have seen on the summer tour.
"It's just got a new feeling to it, albeit with a core group of experienced players, which is exciting because watching those younger guys play at the moment, they're shining - so there's a lot of hope for us.
"There's a lot of work to be done because this big group hasn't been together, with the Lions and the summer tour to Japan we haven't been together in so long, so it's all hands to the wheel and we've got to work hard over this week and in the lead-up to South Africa in two weeks and have a good crack off it. There's plenty of points to prove for this series."
Guinness rugby writers award winners
Men's Player of the Year: Conor Murray
Women's Player of the Year: Claire Molloy
Dave Guiney Team of the Year: Munster
Tom Rooney Award: Michael Kearney
Hall of Fame inductee: Colin Patterson