Thursday 22 August 2019

FAI Cup Final countdown: 'That hunger for success - if it ever leaves you, it's time to stop'

Dan Murray: ‘We will be confident too’
Dan Murray: ‘We will be confident too’

Seán Ryan

Three years ago, Dan Murray came to the stark realisation that "playing football in Ireland isn't going to let you retire." He had just enjoyed two of the most successful seasons of his career with Shamrock Rovers and, taking stock, he decided it was time to get a different job.

He now works in a pharmaceutical company on shift, so fitting in his football can be difficult. "The job was a shock to the system initially," he admits, "but I'm getting used to it.

"I was thinking of playing non-league, and had a discussion or two with managers to see what they thought, because the League of Ireland takes a big commitment with all the travel and training. The roads are a lot better than when I started back in 2002, but when I finish I won't miss the travel, especially coming home from Derry at five o'clock on a Saturday morning."

It was a tip-off from John O'Flynn that led Liam Murphy to sign Murray on loan from Peterborough 13 years ago, and apart from those two glorious years in Tallaght, he hasn't left Leeside since. "John played with me at Peterborough and came home and tipped Liam off. Now he is back with us after some good years with Barnet and Exeter."

Murray is an impressive figure at centre-back, prepared to take the ball out of defence, glide past an attacker's challenge, and stride forward before delivering a pass to a forward colleague 20 or 30 yards away.

"I've always liked being a footballing centre-back," he admits. "I like passing, and when I was younger I made more of those runs. I like to get involved in the attack; like all defenders, I'm a frustrated centre-forward."

Although his father was Irish, Murray thought he would be going back to England, as he had no family ties here, but that has changed, and he now has his own family.

"When I was with Shamrock Rovers, I stayed up in Dublin half the week and in Cork the other half. We had our first child the first year I was with Rovers, and the whole League was going part-time. We had a good few players who travelled to Dublin, including Gary Twigg and Alan Mannus from the North, and Michael O'Neill was very understanding to players who travelled, and it worked.

"I loved my time up there, the success (two Leagues and a Setanta Cup) was great, and the people who ran the club were great to work for. I didn't expect Michael to go direct to international football, but he was so organised and thorough and detailed, and he has definitely got the best out of the Northern Ireland players. His worth has probably gone up another 50 per cent."

Murray speaks fondly of all his managers.

"With Damien Richardson we won the League and the Cup, and he was a great manager to work for. He trusted his players more than any other manager I played under.

"John Caulfield kicks every ball on the pitch, he's the most energetic and passionate manager you can get. Sometimes you can only admire this passion."

To the suggestion that, even without winning a trophy, Caulfield has been a success, Murray responded: "Every manager wants to win trophies and knows that he will only be judged on what he wins, and John has always been successful with the clubs he managed. The club is going in the right direction, and this is a great opportunity to win our first trophy since the club was taken over by the supporters."

Cup finals have featured on Murray's CV, with contrasting fortunes.

"In 2007, it was a horrendous day in the RDS; the weather was awful and we were massive favourites because Longford had been relegated. But they had some good players, like David Mooney, who was the top scorer in the League. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we were more confident that day than the day we lost to Drogheda in 2005. Then, with more cop-on, we might have handled the break between winning the League and the final better, but we couldn't get our minds back on the job, and deserved to lose."

In that respect, he noted: "Dundalk are helped by the final coming only a week after the League, and they have shown the hunger is still there to win games, so they will provide a great test and will be confident, but we will be confident too, so it should be a great game.

"Dundalk are a top team and have set the bar for the last two years, and deservedly won the League. They have some great players, are a very strong team and a very together team. You're only as strong as the fellow next to you, and that carries you through when you're not playing so well."

However, Murray posts a warning to the Lilywhites: "We want to put down a marker that we're one of the top teams in the country, so our biggest goal is to win a trophy. That hunger for success - if it ever leaves you, that's the time to stop." And Murray is in no hurry to stop.

Cork City v Dundalk,

RTé 2, 3.30

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