Monday 23 September 2019

'You have to be mindful of where you are in your career'

Big Interview: Josh Murphy

Combining a role in Leinster set-up with his medical studies is a delicate balancing act for back-row star, writes Marcus Ó Buachalla

Eyes on the ball: Josh Murphy going through his paces during a training session at Energia Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Eyes on the ball: Josh Murphy going through his paces during a training session at Energia Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

As Josh Murphy sits his 6ft 5ins frame into the seat, he exhales deeply. Training done for the day. Exams done too. Relief. It is of course one of the requirements of the Leinster Academy system. Get your rugby smarts on-field and a third-level education off it.

But while many players graduating from the Leinster Academy into the Senior squad generally qualify with a third-level qualification in and around the same time, there are some who continue with their education well into their professional rugby careers.

Adam Byrne is one such example, Tom Daly another as he continues on the road to becoming a physiotherapist. And then there is Murphy. Making his way through his fifth year of six years studying medicine. No mean achievement but it's not easy and there are pressure points. Like now! Exams. And Ospreys.

"It's good to have the exams done alright. One was a practical exam so you are sat in front of a patient as it were and you have a certain amount of time to go through their symptoms and make a diagnosis based on what you hear and see," he explains.

"There was also a multiple choice exam as well that was OK. I think I did well in both, at least I hope I did. Having last week off was a big help as I managed to do a block of work there because I didn't do a tap in South Africa. But I got there!"

Exams are one thing. Lectures and being on placement in St. Vincent's Hospital another thing entirely. It requires a lot of planning and time management.

"I did plan at the start of the season to get up every day at 5am and get two hours done before Leinster but that didn't last long! The key thing is making sure everyone knows where I'm at but most days I am able to combine the two relatively well and then down days from the rugby is when I can obviously do full days on placement.

"I'd like my time management to actually be better but it is what it is. I'm still living at home so that is definitely a big help. Helps me to keep my focus and also just helps around practical stuff like shopping and cooking. I'm really lucky in that regard that I have that support at home that enables me to pursue both."

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.


The 23-year-old back-row is enjoying his time combining both roles and while he has yet to be stopped on his rounds by a rugby fan with an eye for an autograph, a few of the doctors have mentioned it. Has Leinster's resident doctor, Dr Contepomi, made any comment?

"To be honest, I had my first conversation with Felipe about all of that last week," he laughs in reference of course to Felipe Contepomi's past life as a Leinster Rugby player and medical student.

"We just happened to be sat next to each other in South Africa and I started to pick his brains. It was interesting to get his take on it and obviously where he is at now. Usually I leave him to do backs coaching and he leaves me to focus on being a forward so it was good to catch up like that and just tease it all out with him."

Murphy is in his first year as a Senior player and is enjoying the step up. In his final year in the Academy last season he played in nine games of the 32 Leinster played. Off the bench away to Glasgow on his debut and then eight starts after that. So far this season he has played in three of the eight Guinness PRO14 games, starting all of them from blindside flanker.

"It's the exposure and the regular exposure that is the big difference. A key thing in Leinster is that the Academy and the Senior team are all based in UCD and we train together a lot of the time," he says. "But there are other times when you don't like some of the gym sessions. I am in that Senior squad now so am involved all the time so that is brilliant. Just being around all those players. Leinster, Ireland, Lions players and learning from them every day."

Learning is all well and good but that does create difficulties for a man looking to add caps to his name?

"I'm like everyone else I want to play in every game but you have to be mindful of where you are at in your career and how you want to grow and then of course this window when an opportunity comes your way, you have to take it with both hands and for me and for everyone that chance is now on Friday against the Ospreys."

The match-day 23 will be littered with Leinster players starting out on their journey. He was that player last season, making his debut away to Glasgow. What does he remember of it and the build-up?

"I had a sense it might be coming and then the team was named and you're a bundle of nerves but hugely excited too because it's what you have been training for all along. It's not difficult to get up for that's for sure. All through the Academy you just hope you get that chance to play and I was delighted it came but obviously you play to win and the overriding sense was disappointment.

"But I got another chance the week after in the RDS and actually scored a try on my first start and that nearly made more noise with family and friends than the debut the week before! I suppose I rarely score so they enjoyed that a little more I think.


"For the lads this week it's all about trust. Everyone trusts that they will do a job. We all know each other really well, know how well these lads have gone in the Celtic Cup and then in training since then. We all need to focus on our own roles now and work hard for each other."

Murphy is aware that work rate and willingness to work for each other will be needed against the Ospreys.

"They're physical, have a really good kicking game and can do damage and likewise with their back three if we are in any way loose they can punish us. We saw last season over there they beat us 32-18 fair and square so we know how tough it's going to be.

"That said the energy from the lads about to make debuts and their excitement for the game has been brilliant and hopefully we can all play our part in a big team performance."

Irish Independent

The Left Wing - RWC daily: Bullet trains as Ireland spread wings

Also in Sport