Sport Rugby

Monday 14 October 2019

Looking forward to making fresh start

Declan Rooney

This season has turned out to be a pretty frustrating one for Johne Murphy, but the 28-year-old can't wait for the new campaign to get under way.

Injuries and illness meant his campaign started later than everyone else's. And just when he felt back near to his best, the season ground to a halt. He now has to wait for another three months.

But tries in the last two Pro12 games of the season has given the Kildare native some hope for next year, as he still believes he has the potential to rekindle the form he produced after his move from Leicester three seasons ago.

"Overall, I am very disappointed with how the season has gone for me, probably a little frustrated with it to be honest.

"It got off to a bad start when I picked up an ankle injury in last year's semi-final against Ospreys, which meant I missed out on all of pre-season. I made it back in time for one of the warm-up games, but I knew I wasn't ready fitness-wise.

"After that I ended up going back to Young Munster to get some game time and to try and work on my fitness, but I picked up a knee injury which sidelined me for another couple of weeks. And to top it all, I picked up a virus as well which added another couple of weeks on to it.

"What should have been a two- or three-week lay-off turned into a six- or seven-week job, which brought me back in the middle of the Heineken Cup.

"I came back at a bad time really, and it was Christmas before I got any real game time. I have been involved since then, probably not as often as I'd like, but that's the game we play," he said.

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Midway through his latest two-year deal with Munster, Murphy is acutely aware how important next season is for him. He needs to make an impact to further his career, and he admits he wasn't shy in pointing this out to Rob Penney either.

"We have had a couple of conversations this season about a few different things and I will say that discussions have gotten a little heated at times. But, as Rob says, that's what men do. They air their views and have it out and then we go about our business.

"It is like any job when you are in the office on a Monday going over the footage of the game. It is part of the game to try and improve on what you have done wrong. It is all about trying to get ahead of the guy that's ahead of you in the pecking order.

"But next year is a massive year for all of us. Hopefully I can get a good pre-season behind me and be ready to hit the ground running at the start of the season.

"It is a massive year for me personally, I am 28 now and the next two seasons will be huge for me," he added.

Whatever happens next for Murphy, he has already started planning for a life after rugby. Last week he opened his first gym in Twomilehouse, Naas, called Titan Fit, which provides high-intensity circuit training.

But thoughts of his future after the game have been on his mind since he ended a five-year stint in the English Premiership with Leicester to come back to Ireland.

"I suppose the gym is my first real step towards life after rugby. We are just up and running so it is really in its infancy.

"But even back when I was in England, I always knew that I wanted to come back to Ireland for good at some stage. At the age of 19 it was definitely the right move for me. I grew up over there, I learned so much about myself and my game and I improved so much as a player.

"But when the option came to move home to a place with such similarities to Leicester I jumped at the chance. I was humbled by Munster's interest in me, and after a quick meeting with Tony McGahan, Garrett Fitzgerald and Sean Payne the deal was done pretty quickly," he said.

In fact, Murphy's move to the English giants had gone so well that after picking up a Player of the Year award and a top try-scorer award, his name was beginning to be bandied about as an Irish international.

The call-up came days after he ran in two tries against Glasgow for his new club, but after making Declan Kidney's 34-man squad for the 2010 autumn internationals, he never made the grade. It was a devastating blow.

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"Not getting picked to face Samoa that year was really tough to take. Having made the Ireland squad when I was in the form of my life was amazing. But to not get picked then really upset me confidence-wise.

"After that I tried everything to catch the eye, probably to the detriment of my game, attempting stupid passes, taking stupid kicks: I was always trying to get back into that squad.

"But it never happened. I have since done a lot of sports psychology work and I think it has really helped my game. That's why this year has been easier to deal with. I can park disappointment now, put it to one side and get on with it.

"I don't think I have hit the form that I showed in the first few months after my move. The first three months of my Munster career was the best rugby I have ever played. I am not quite there yet, but I still think I can come close again," he said.

Despite this frustrating campaign, the statistics show Murphy logged his best try-to-game ratio since he moved back to Ireland.

In his previous two seasons he claimed 52 Munster caps and featured in all five positions along the backline.

And he is ready to improve those numbers again next year.

"After the season I had it was a great privilege for me to be involved in the two Heineken Cup games at the end of the season. I was the 24th man on both occasions, but to be there to hear Doug Howlett speak before the Quins game and hear Paulie speak before the Clermont game was a real honour.

"We know now that we are good enough to compete. It is time for this team to write its own piece of history and I want to be involved in it," he said.

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