Tuesday 21 January 2020

Enigmatic Murphy relishing the opportunity to cement starting berth

David Kelly

David Kelly

The return of the enigma. Again.

For some of his sternest critics, resuscitating the 'Police Academy' franchise would be more palatable than the latest series of Geordan Murphy's international Irish recall.

To his fans, his return offers sustenance to those who believe that rugby can be entertaining and effective at the same time, that a proclivity to daft defensive whimsy can always be offset by the gifts few others possess.

Giovanni Trapattoni, you can be sure, would not touch him with a Venetian barge pole. The perennially suspicious Eddie O'Sullivan was cut from a similar cloth; dropping him six times in two years, enabling him to threaten Mick Galwey's unenviable record (10).

Declan Kidney's ascension to the throne offered succour to a player who was honestly questioning whether he had an international career this time two years ago. A farcical week during the 2008 Six Nations offered a microcosm of his existence.

Firstly, he was dropped from the Irish 22 after familiar French defeat and familiar scapegoating, then restored from exile to promptly win a man-of-the-match gong versus Scotland before being dropped once more.

In stark contrast, the new Irish regime has embraced him, even when injured for much of this season; that Kidney and Irish manager Paul McNaughton travelled to meet Murphy in England last season demonstrated the change in mood music.

Although Rob Kearney has supplanted Girvan Dempsey as first-choice full-back, Murphy's return from shoulder injury now offers a lifeline to the talented Leicester player to perhaps nail down a starting berth.

"It's not something that I'm overly worried about," he says before today's test. "I'm delighted to be back in, but who knows what will happen? I just have to go out and give it my best shot. I'm not concerned about any game other than this weekend and we'll see what happens down the line.

"I thought it would be difficult to get back this soon. If everyone had been fit, I'm not too sure if I'd be involved. I was always due to be at training this week with the squad.

"I'd spoken to Declan at the start of the Six Nations, at about the time that I was coming right. He asked if I'd like to come in and train and I said I'd prefer to stay and try and get a game or two under my belt.

"That was the case and I didn't know what the story would be. My attitude was that I'd get an opportunity this week and would hit the ground running and try and impress with the work we do on the training pitch and put pressure on the coach to pick me or not pick me."

Irish Independent

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