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Saturday 10 December 2016

irish Gloom can be lifted: Daryl

Favours needed but unexpected club form give Murphy hope

Euro 2016

IT WAS back to life, back to reality for Daryl Murphy today after a month of lows, highs and more lows.

The big man from Waterford finished the season with the honour of being the highest-scoring player in any of the English leagues, but his club season ended in disappointment as Ipswich Town missed out on promotion to the Premier League.

On the international scene he finished strongly, Murphy earning an unexpected start against England and then Scotland, but his full competitive debut, at the age of 31, also brought dejection, Ireland ending up with a 1-1 draw at home to the Scots.

Coalface

As his fellow pros flock to the beaches and flesh-pots of Europe and flood social media with photos of them hanging out with lingerie models, Murphy was back at the coalface of family life today, back to Ipswich as his kids are in school today and he was needed for the school run.

The disappointment of Saturday's draw and dropped points at home to Scotland nags away, with a long break now until the Euro 2016 campaign regroups for those September clashes with Gibraltar and Georgia.

Murphy knows that Ireland now not only need maximum points from the next two games but also favours from other sides in the group, but he points to events in his own career (no bookie would have given odds on Murphy out-scoring every other professional in England's four professional leagues) and at his club to suggest that all hope is not lost for Ireland.

"It's going to be hard now and we need favours but I believe that anything can happen yet," Murphy told The Herald. "To me, this is the toughest group in the competition so it was always going to be tough. Football is a mad game, results can go for, or against, you. We just need to look to ourselves, win our next two games and see where we are after that.

"You look at Ipswich in the season just gone and you see that anything can happen, no one really gave us a chance of promotion at the start of the season, I know we didn't make it in the end but we made the play-offs and did a lot better than was expected of us, we had a small budget and no big-name players, with a lot of hard work and determination we got to the playoffs.

"We have those attributes - had work (ethic) and good team spirit especially with Ireland but we have more quality here with Ireland, " he added.

Murphy was clearly in the manager's thoughts as he was given a starting role in the training game with Northern Ireland and then the full-on friendly with England before O'Neill pitched him into the side against Scotland, his first time to start a qualifier, eight years after his competitive debut as a sub away to Slovakia under Steve Staunton.

"It was nice, on a personal level, to start but a real pity for the sake of the team that we didn't get the win we wanted," he admitted.

Confidence

"I didn't think I would start, to be honest, but the manager had the confidence in me to play me and I feel I gave a good account of myself, I just feel a bit disappointed that I didn't nick a goal.

"It was physically tough, I started the last three games that we had in this phase so that was great for me, I had kept myself in good condition after the play-offs, I had a week off after the season finished with Ipswich but I made sure I stayed in good nick and that I was match sharp.

"I can claim an assist on the goal, I thought my own effort was in, the keeper made a decent save on the line but luckily Jon Walters was there to get it over the line and score."

Ireland still have just one loss in their record in this group but for Murphy, a point at home to the Scots is a case of points dropped.

"It feels like a defeat to me because of the manner in which we conceded," he says.

"We were 1-0 up at half time, playing good football and doing really well in the game but for them to score so early in the second half was a real blow for us, it was sloppy from us and they were a bit lucky to get a deflection for the goal, Shay could do nothing about it as the deflection caught him off guard, that happens.

"We needed to get back into the game and create chances, we did create a few but just couldn't manage to score. We had scored at a nice time, we knew that the Scots would come out of the blocks in the second half, like any would where they were 1-0 down. They caught us cold at the start of that second half and punished us.

"We know how big that game was for us and for our fans, we were on our home patch and we wanted to win, we didn't do that, we can't do too much about Scotland now as we are finished with them, we just have to look to September."

Saturday was a reunion of sorts for Murphy as he caught up with ex-Celtic team-mates Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew. "If we can't make it to the finals I'd be happy to see lads I know, like Charlie and Scott, make it there but there's still a long way to go. It's a tough group but anything could happen in the last few games of the campaign."

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