Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bus trips, old pals and real rugby - Murphy relishing Naas role

Naas head coach Johne Murphy. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Naas head coach Johne Murphy. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

These are exciting times for Naas RFC and as the club embarks on its first journey in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League, having two of its most famous sons back in the fold should go some way towards making even more progress.

In his first season as player/coach, Johne Murphy oversaw a title-winning Division 2A campaign and the signing of Fionn Carr is the latest sign of the strides the club has made in recent years.

In Murphy's case, offers to remain in professional rugby had been on the table when he called it a day with Munster last year and at 30, Carr also still has plenty to offer.

"It's great. He was in a similar position as me last year," Murphy said of Carr's arrival. "For him to come back to his local area and be a part of something is big for him. It's something that he's passionate about.

"It's not like he's come in and been like, 'look I've done this or that'. He's come in and gotten in the mix. He's going to be very good for us at a level that the majority of the team haven't played at before.

"Hopefully myself and Fionn will bounce off each other this year. I'm a year further down the line than he is so it's important that we bounce off each other in that regard."

This season will be the first time that the Kildare club will play in either of the top two divisions and while it is a significant achievement for the club, Murphy has lofty ambitions for Naas to continue their ascension through the ranks.

Last season, Naas used 36 players, 29 of whom played youth rugby with the club. The remaining players were from the area or are currently living there and with approximately 400 playing mini rugby, there is still plenty of room for growth.

"It's about still trying to have that club, community base that we very much have and want to hold on to but also try slowly breed in that professionalism that's needed at the top level," he explained.

"We want to build Kildare up as a centre hub for rugby at both junior senior levels."

Murphy will continue in his player/coach role and while he admits that there were some difficulties in striking the right balance between the two last season, he feels that he now has a better understanding of it.

"It's tough to give up when you're playing with lads that you were in school with, he maintained.

"I played with Fionn in school and to play together again is a good buzz, and there are lads that I would have known and played with since I was seven or eight.

"I suppose it's real rugby again. It's no-one's job. We're doing it because we want to be there. If things don't go our way or do go our way, we're going to enjoy the bus trips. That's what rugby is about.

"I had a watershed moment down in Cashel last year. We got beaten and I was very frustrated after it. I needed to find that balance between coaching and playing and not trying to coach too much while I was on the pitch.

"That day, I was certainly coaching more on the pitch rather than playing. It was important to have that bad day and realise, OK, I've got the team in a good position on the Tuesday and Thursday, now I need to be able to contribute to the group as a player."

Irish Independent

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