Monday 19 March 2018

'I just said, 'I'm not missing out on history here''

Jordi Murphy celebrates after Leinster’s victory over Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
Jordi Murphy celebrates after Leinster’s victory over Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Over the last few weeks we have been treated to some excellent sporting TV. Leaving aside the fare on offer in the RDS last Saturday as Leinster scored seven tries against the Scarlets and over the last few weekends in the Six Nations as Ireland got their campaign back on track, we were also brought back to a famous weekend in November thanks to one of the Irish Rugby sponsors.

The 'Team of Us' documentary brought us behind the scenes during the autumn internationals and we caught up with some of the major players - both on and off the field - during those four games against New Zealand (twice), Canada and Australia.

One of those to feature prominently early on in the documentary was Leinster back-row forward Jordi Murphy and why wouldn't he? He had featured in six of Leinster's early-season games, starting four and was in good form. Before that he had featured prominently on the Irish summer tour to South Africa, starting two of the games against the Springboks.

He had made it into the first Irish squad of the 2016/'17 season on merit and was in Chicago for the first game of the four-game series and was looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead. He was enjoying it too and it showed.

Soaking up the atmosphere in Chicago as the Cubs celebrated a World Series. Shooting hoops in the Chicago Bulls training facility. And then starting and scoring a try against the All Blacks on that day of days.

As we all now know, not long after touching down for his second ever try in an Ireland jersey, Murphy suffered a cruciate knee injury after 26 minutes. That was the end of the tour and the end of his involvement in the historic autumn series.

"I suppose it wasn't tough to look at the documentary. It's far tougher to look at the Six Nations and not be involved or to look at how well the Leinster boys have gone over the last four games in the Guinness Pro12 and wonder what if.

"But I'm so far along in the recovery now that to fall back into a sulk or to dwell on what went on or what I've missed out on wouldn't do me any favours. So yeah, instead I looked at it and enjoyed it because I was part of a massively historic day for Irish rugby."

Escaping The story of him and his father 'escaping' the care of the medical team charged with his care to return to the field to see out the game is the stuff of legend now. In time it will grow legs and no doubt more will be made of it. For now, it is what it is.

"We were looking at the match clock under the stand in the medical room. I'd missed the end of the first half at this stage and the start of the second and I think we were four points up with however many minutes to go.

"The American medics left to get the car to take me to hospital and I just said, 'I'm not missing out on history here' so we just legged it! Once pitch side they were never going to pull me away so I was safe enough there.

"To be fair, they didn't appreciate the magnitude of the game and what was at stake; they were American football fans. But in the end I got all my scans done the next day and it didn't make any difference to the ultimate outcome. The knee was done and that was that. But there was no way I was going to be sitting in an SUV in downtown Chicago wondering what was happening at the game. Best call I ever made!!"

He will forever be associated with the first win and the first try that day but it's bittersweet all the same.

"For sure and I will definitely have that sense until I do make a comeback. But it will be all the sweeter then because I will look back when I am fit and healthy and I'll say, wasn't it great to be involved on that day with a brilliant Ireland win.

"My try yes, but then CJ going over after for his try and then everything that followed after. It won't be about the injury anymore. It'll be about a great team effort and I'm looking forward to that."

The comeback is going well and 25-year-old Murphy is confident of being back before the season is out.

"That is the plan at the moment. There have been no setbacks and I think massive credit must go to the S&C staff in Leinster and the physios for the work that they have done and Karl Denvir in particular.

"I am hopefully reaping the benefits now of all that work where I am ahead of time and very much focused on a return before the end of the season and challenging for a spot."

Until that time there is plenty of rugby to keep him entertained with his alma mater Blackrock College back in a Senior Schools Cup final.

"I've always enjoyed going to the schools games anyway but my cousin Andrew is actually involved in the team, he's playing in the second-row so I have an added interest I suppose this year.

"It does bring you back. In my time we beat Terenure in the final but this year they face Belvedere who are in their third final in a row so it promises to be a great game.

"I brought Dominic Ryan to his first semi-final earlier this week just to show him what that day looks like and he enjoyed his big day out! But to be fair they are brilliant occasions, past pupils from 35 or 40 years ago still going, Donnybrook jammed to the rafters and it will hopefully be another big day on St Patrick's Day."

Before he gets to that game and the massive game the day after against England, first there is Wales this evening in the Principality Stadium.

Temptations There are temptations to head over but there is a Murphy family tradition that will take precedence.

"My earliest rugby memories on TV are in my grandparents' house and probably that 2001 Lions tour so ever since then the whole family have fallen into that tradition that if I'm not involved or not at the game we head over to theirs and we all gather round and watch the game.

"It's a great way to catch up for a start but it's also a nice tradition that I'm happy we still keep going."

So a prediction before the Murphys descend en bloc to Gerry and Joan's house?

"There is massive pressure on Wales to get a win after losing two games already but I think Ireland have sorted out the issues that were there from the Scotland game and are performing at a really high level now. So I think Ireland are good enough to win it and I hope they do and then it brings it all to the last weekend against England."

Irish Independent

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