Tuesday 22 October 2019

Chippy Murphy feels so lucky being back after serious injury

Kylie Murphy will be hoping to get her hands on the cup for real tomorrow. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Kylie Murphy will be hoping to get her hands on the cup for real tomorrow. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Guards of honour are usually reserved for title-winners but Wexford Youths captain Kylie Murphy didn't need silverware to be afforded one by Peamount United five years ago.

It wasn't that she'd put Irish football on the map like Peamount player Stephanie Roche for scoring a FIFA goal of the year contender.

Murphy's feat could resonate with both sets of players clapping her onto the pitch. She'd defied medical science to avoid her career ending at the age of 24.

Tomorrow, having recently turned 30, the Carlow native captains her team against Peamount at Lansdowne Road seeking an FAI Cup triumph to complete the double.

Had she heeded the advice of Dr Ashley Poynton, the leading consultant in the country on spinal injuries based in the Mater Hospital, then Murphy would instead be sitting in the stand watching her former team-mates on the biggest day of the year for women's football.

Peamount's affectionate gesture didn't happen by accident. It was on that very Greenogue pitch 12 months earlier that her problems began. Going up for a header in the warm-up, a disc in her back slipped.

"An MRI scan revealed the extent of the damage," Murphy recalls.

"I tried everything to get back playing, even a silly thing of getting the root of the nerve blocked by an injection.

"I was in desperation mode, knowing surgery was the only final option. In fairness to Dr Poynton, he said I should look beyond football and be thankful that I wouldn't be in pain for the rest of my life. I just couldn't do that."

Central to her optimism of resuming her career was the help of Miriam Rowlands, a chartered physio based in Wexford.

"Rather than having an operation so young, I travelled to Miriam's practice four times per week to try have the disc manipulated back into place. Although that didn't happen, the exercises strengthened my core, ensuring the post-op recovery was strong."

It helped that Murphy's mind was generating the same independence as her body.

Growing up around the family's fitted kitchen business in Killeshin, it never occurred that the path taken by her two brothers would appeal to her.

Pat, Kylie's father, had a routine of being up early and out the door to Dublin for an installation or ensconced in the workshop at the back of the house prepping doors with specialised spray.

Nowadays, his daughter is the one immersed in the carpentry tasks.

"I'm just raging that I didn't start years ago," she notes. "School just wasn't for me and I lasted just a couple of weeks in college. Then, I went working in a phoneshop and it was only when it closed down that my Dad offered me a job.

"Being out and active, be it as a carpenter or playing football, suits me best. We all get along fine working together but I get to go home to my own house once the day is finished. That's important."

Teamwork will also be essential tomorrow.

Having wrapped up their fourth league title in five seasons, and fared well in the Champions League, clinching Cup glory is their final act.

Two years ago, they were hammered 5-0 by Shelbourne in the final. As if that isn't enough motivation, Murphy missed the decider due to a suspension carried over from a cancelled final league game of the season.

"This is the stage we all have to perform on," she declares. "Our football has improved this season under the new manager Tom Elmes but I'd still put Peamount down as favourites."

Win or lose, Murphy has been given Monday off by her Dad. That's the least she deserves.

Peamount v Wexford Youths,
Live, tomorrow, RTÉ2, 12.05pm

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