Tuesday 24 April 2018

'You set new targets and that is what I've done'

The Big Interview: Josh Murphy

Josh Murphy in action against Ulster’s Jean Deysel. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Josh Murphy in action against Ulster’s Jean Deysel. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

There's been a buzz around Leinster's base in UCD this week and while Ireland's Grand Slam success has played a huge part in that, there is plenty more driving the excitement levels. Josh Murphy is in line to make appearance number eight of the season tomorrow in the Liberty Stadium against the Ospreys and for the 23-year-old UCD medicine student, he and plenty of others are just excited to get going again.

"I think after the last block of games there was a lingering sense of frustration really so as we've been preparing for the Ospreys everyone has been mad keen to get playing again.

"Having the international lads back was great. They were still on cloud nine but very quickly the back-slapping was done and we were into looking at Saracens before they head off for a break. But the energy that they brought to the place was great. Hopefully now we can use some of that on Saturday against the Ospreys."

His sense of frustration is a mark of where he and indeed the rest of the Leinster squad are at. At the start of the four-game Six Nations block they were in second place in Conference B behind last year's champions the Scarlets. As the curtain came down on the block, they were ahead by three points. Not a bad result, all things considered.

But a late loss to Edinburgh and an even later draw to the Scarlets cost points. Points that could yet cost them even more during the next four weeks.

"I just think in both those games we were in positions to win them. Against Edinburgh, I think we played well. We were pretty happy and yet you're looking up at the scoreboard and scratching your head wondering how we didn't close out this game.

Josh Murphy
Josh Murphy

"The Scarlets game the same. Last-minute penalty against us to draw the game. Again you just feel that if you had your time again you'd so things different.

"But how else are we to learn? Coaches talk about these things but really you have to be in that situation to truly appreciate the margins and how quickly something can unravel. Thankfully we managed to still get something from both games with the draw and the bonus points and that allowed us to steal a march on the Scarlets but it could have been better."

Broken

Murphy's story in his debut season is start, stop, start. He was moving well in pre-season but a broken jaw in the pre-season game against Gloucester in St Mary's College cost him the chance to put that pre-season form into an early season debut appearance.

Josh Murphy with Scott Fardy
Josh Murphy with Scott Fardy

Instead he had to wait for the jaw to heal and for the opportunities to come.

"I made my debut in November off the bench against Glasgow and then a few weeks later started against the Dragons which was great but really since January I have felt a part of it."

The Leinster system is renowned as a model that sees senior and Academy integrate on a daily basis. The chance to learn from the best but Murphy sees another plus.

The chance to see how the other half live.

"Massively. You would be very eager because you are there training or sitting in the team meetings or in the analysis room but that's all you're doing really. You're there. But you don't get the chance to test yourself in a game. But that's what drives you. Drives you to be better, drives you to put the hand up and to perform and then hopefully the rest looks after itself.

"Of course playing and training with some of the world's best players is brilliant and they are all very helpful but I also think it gives you that drive. You want to be more than just training and in the gym. You want to play. And when you are with the team and feeling part of it, there's no better feeling in the world."

Murphy is certainly part of it and with seven caps to his name and a try on his first start against the Dragons, 2018 has gone well for him.

"My target at the start of the season was just to play for Leinster but again you see from being involved with those senior lads, that it's not enough to play. You have to win. You see that drive. You set new targets and that is what I've done too.

"So once I had made my debut of course it was special, but then it's about winning in a Leinster jersey and doing that consistently and what does it take to win on a regular basis. The last few weeks have gone well but now we want to kick on again and make that position at the top of Conference B even more secure."

He's got a busy period ahead of him on and off the field with his fifth year medicine exams kicking in next week. Those same exams ultimately curtailed his enjoyment of the Ireland game last Saturday.

"I was at home with my mum and dad watching on the couch. But sure that's better for enjoying a game than being out and in a pub and all the distraction. It was brilliant. Seeing Dan (Leavy) and JR (James Ryan) playing like that and winning in an Ireland jersey was special. You'd be very proud of them and jealous at the same time.

"We are all hugely driven in here and you see them progress and making those steps and you want the same. But the only way that will happen is by doing the business with Leinster and that's what I'm focused on. Well, that and the exams!"

He's from a family of seven. Mum and dad, Louise and John, had three girls, Holly, Georgia and Emily, and twin boys Max and Josh.

Tearing

While Josh was busy tearing it up in the RDS against the Scarlets, brother Max was far away but tearing it up in his own way.

"He's over in New Zealand. He would have played a bit of rugby underage but then the rowing took off. So after college he decided to take a year off and went to New Zealand so he's working on a farm breaking in horses but he also joined a rowing club in Waikato and he won three medals at the national championships just a few weeks ago. Two golds and a silver.

"So he's loving life at the minute and enjoying his rowing. He's mad into his fitness. I saw Damian Browne finished that solo row across the Atlantic a few weeks back, well Max would be mad enough to try that too. He loves it and he's loving his time over there."

Two busy boys and both with targets and ambitions. And neither happy to sit still. A big few months awaits.

Irish Independent

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