Last year's winning captain relives his route to success
JORDI MURPHY'S route to glory had an unusual starting point. The 2009 Leinster Schools Senior Cup-winning captain only moved from Spain to Dublin when he was eight.
Born in Barcelona, he was named after the patron saint St Jordi of Catalonia. The name, he explains, was heavily influenced by the nurses in the hospital the night he was born back in April 1991, as the renowned St Jordi's Day festival was to be celebrated in the town the following day.
Memories of his early life in Barcelona may have faded somewhat for Murphy, but that is certainly not the case with regard to the the crowning moment of his sporting success to date -- captaining Blackrock to their 66th Leinster Senior Cup in March, 2009.
It was a year which began with such promise and optimism for 'Rock. Having been installed as pre-tournament favourites, they refused to let this tag affect them.
"As a team, we were always highly regarded. We won the Junior Cup back in '06 as favourites, so we already knew the particular pressures that come with the tag," said Murphy. "We never let it get into our heads, though, that we were favourites. We knew we had a job to do and we just got on with it.
"We had an exceptional backroom team. Frank Macken (head coach) kept our feet on the ground. He always told us that we had room for improvement regardless of what score we won or lost by."
Blackrock overcame some stiff opposition on their way to the final against Terenure, a side whom they had failed to beat in the pre-season. But there was no mental block coming into the final --Blackrock were never going to buckle with the momentum they had gathered.
"We lost a few pre-season games, but our form was good. When we were beaten by Terenure in the pre-season, we put the game behind us, got on with things, and tried to become a better team as a result. That's how other teams should operate. There was no mental block playing them (Terenure) in the final, because we didn't think about previous games," said Murphy. "We were also coming together strongly as a team and improving all the way through the competition."
That success was the realisation of a huge personal ambition for Murphy.
"I came to Willow (Park) at the age of nine and since I first heard about the Senior Cup, it was always a dream to play in it one day.
"So, to actually win it -- with your good friends that you've played with all the way up through the years -- really added to the experience. It's something special that we'll never forget."
From a young age he noticed the sense of community and pride of the Senior Cup teams: "We always looked at the years ahead of us and the pride and passion they put into preparing for the Cup. Everybody wanted that ultimate reward," he said.
Every year there are teams who flourish coming through the competition, but what is it that sets these successful teams apart?
"It's the determination, hunger, the skill. Some teams want to leave the school on a high, leave a mark, and win the Cup. Everyday last year we gave it 100pc. We never went out to training or matches complacent. We all worked hard for each other," Murphy stated.
"And when things weren't going well, we never gave up. When it comes down to winning, it's nothing to do with certain talents or the amount of players a certain school has. It's all down to hard-work and dedication at the end of the day."
At present, the standard of the schools' game is very promising. The coaching, the skill level and the commitment from the players continues to set new standards.
"Everybody takes it very seriously. For the majority of the players, it's the highest level of rugby they've played so far, so it means a lot to them," he says.
"Look at the current Irish team, for example. Most of the players came through the schools' system. It just goes to show the talent that can be produced from this competition."
This year's Cup draw has sparked an interesting reaction from the current players. It sees a number of the high-profile schools pitched together. Murphy perceives it as an exciting draw.
"It's a very open and interesting draw. There are a lot of favourites, but the Cup draw is never going to be easy and there will always be surprises or upsets, it's the same with any sport, really," he said.
"St Michael's, Clongowes and Blackrock have been looking strong in pre-season and should, hopefully, bring that form into the Cup. St Gerard's, as well, are a side not to overlook. They won the League last year and are in the final again this year. It just goes to show how some teams are progressing," he added.
Murphy knows that it's important to make the most of these opportunities, "You only get one chance of winning a Schools Cup -- unless you're very lucky. It's not something to take for granted," he said.
"Before you start, you know there's always somebody right behind you looking to fill your space. You can't afford to give less than 100pc in this competition.
He concluded on a nostalgic note: "You'll be talking about those moments and looking back on the pictures with your friends for the rest of your life, so it's important to make the most of it."
The journey continues. Another season begins.
* Jordi Murphy is currently playing with Blackrock RFC and training with the Leinster sub-Academy. He was flanker and captain of the Ireland U-19 side which defeated Australia in December.