Friday 19 January 2018

Determined to pass on the lessons picked up along way

Getting back from injury is top target in year which promises so much for versatile back

Johne Murphy is still hoping to contribute towards Munster’s season after injury
Johne Murphy is still hoping to contribute towards Munster’s season after injury

Daragh Small

Planning a wedding is difficult at the best of times but as a professional rugby player plying your trade for one of the top sides in a World Cup year, it can become overwhelming.

Luckily, Johne Murphy swats aside pressure and the Rathangan native is keeping a calm head as he plans out the rest of the season.

The 31-year-old, who has played twice for Ireland in uncapped internationals, is looking for an immediate return to fitness and a spot in the Munster starting 15 as his primary objectives.

"My hand is healing well. When I injured it, it was kind of a freak incident because I don't know how it had happened. It was the Thursday before the Saracens game and we were just running through plays towards the end. I stepped in for one of the lads when I was supposed to be on the bench.

"Towards the end of the session my hands were so cold that I didn't even realise it. I went over to our physio Shea McAleer at the end of the session and my hand was making a clicking noise.

"He said it could be ligaments, but to have a shower, warm up and come up and see him. But I couldn't even put my socks on. He knew there was a bit of trouble there so I went for an X-ray and unfortunately found there was a spiral fracture in my hand," says Murphy.

That was the beginning of a month-long lay off and he knows the significance of this block of matches. Last weekend Munster's comprehensive 33-16 win over Cardiff Blues showcased some of the fledgling talent that is on offer in the province.

With the internationals away on Six Nations duty and Munster out of Europe each Pro12 fixture takes on an even greater importance as they edge towards the top of the standings. With 95 appearances and 12 tries in his Munster career to date, Murphy recognises that his experience could be crucial over the coming months.

"Our exit from the Champions Cup has very much concentrated our minds on where we needed to get to. After results last weekend we're are in the top two of the Pro12 and this block of four games is massive because of the guys that teams are missing.

"If you win these four games or you have performances that get results and get you points, you can really be sitting pretty at the top running into the last stretch of five or six games, and hopefully looking at that home semi-final that you really need.

CONTRIBUTE

"I feel that I can certainly contribute to the younger guys. I went through a lot myself through the years and I think that it is important that I help out as much as I can, to lead from the front in basic standards, basic training standards and all that sort of stuff.

"That is role that when you are young you look at the other guys and you think you will never be one of those guys but unfortunately age always catches you at some stage.

"That is the role I have now, I think Denis Hurley and Andrew Smith and the older guys in the backline, we are trying to do that. You see Denis was captain that just shows the leadership qualities that he does bring to the squad.

"There are only three or four of us in the back, it is important that we do try and kick on and really push things forward."

Murphy is set to wed his fiancée Kate Ryan at Clonwilliam House, Wicklow in June and the planning is well under way in that regard as he sets his short-, medium- and long-term goals for 2015.

The hand injury is first up, with a regular Munster starting jersey and then he says he will take it from there.

He seems relaxed, but this is all coming from a man who said he was unperturbed as he approached a penalty in the infamous Cardiff shoot-out to decide the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009 where his former club Leicester Tigers beat Cardiff Blues.

He made 86 appearances scoring 23 tries for Leicester as well as being voted Supporters' Player of the Year in 2008, but he missed his kick and was certain it would cost his team a place in the final.

"To be honest, I didn't feel the pressure because I actually performed well in the game. I was very confident walking up to it. For me I was probably a bit too, 'Okay this is going over', and 'I am going to kick it over rather than just place it over the bar'.

"Most place-kickers will tell you that it is about your rhythm rather than trying to kick the ball all the time. I was probably a bit too pumped up and wellied it rather than trying to place it.

"But in general I felt quite good walking up, I had a couple of chats with the guys. When people had said who is going to take one, the kickers are first and when we had our three kickers - Sam Vesty, Julien Dupuy and Geordan Murphy had taken them I said I am next. So I was pretty confident and I felt it was something that I could definitely do.

"When I missed, for me it was more so the fact that you feel that you let everyone else down, to have the feeling to you let the guys down that you are working day in day out with.

"Thankfully, it only lasted for only 90 seconds or so because Scott Hamilton kept us in it."

But those are the moments which typify the peaks and valleys of a career and Murphy is looking forward to writing the next chapter on and off the field in what promises to be a busy and eventful year.

Irish Independent

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