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Murphy: I'm ready to step up to the penalty spot if it's required

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READY FOR ACTION: Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

READY FOR ACTION: Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

©INPHO/James Crombie

READY FOR ACTION: Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

There can hardly have been a more exhilarating time to be an inter-county goalkeeper than a season in which the All-Ireland final could be decided by penalty shoot-out.

Hurling goalkeepers, as Eoin Murphy points out, are highlighted as often for their mistakes as their saves but in this, the most unique of championships, there now exists the potential for one to have their very own Packie Bonner moment.

"Look, it definitely will have to be considered," says Murphy, Kilkenny's 30-year-old double All Star, currently at the peak of his craft. "It is going to have to be finished on the day.

"It's going to be difficult for us but I suppose, you could have your Packie Bonner moment!"

There is a growing awareness now that penalty shoot-outs could be a major feature of this year's championships.

In all of their challenge matches following lockdown, Murphy's club, Glenmore, arranged for shoot-outs to be staged, regardless of the result, in order for players to become familiar with the custom.

Statistically, it's getting harder for goalkeepers. In 2015, when one-on-one penalties were first brought into hurling, just over 40% were scored through the league and championship.

That figure rose slowly, to just over 50% in 2016 and '17, and then spiked sharply to just below 80% last year.

"I think hurling is quite difficult (for goalkeepers), even more so than football," Murphy reckons.

"Even if you do guess the right way, like in last year's Leinster final, Mark Fanning struck with so much power that even when I did go the correct side the 'keeper is still going to have to pull off a very good save."

"But from a 'keeper's point of view, definitely I'm no different, to (Brian) Hogan or (James) Skehill or any of the boys.

"I'm sure they've maybe even imagined it as well."

There is, Murphy notes, an inherent duality to being a hurling 'keeper.

"The quieter you are nearly the better," the Kilkenny 'keeper notes, "that means you are on top.

"But," he adds, "if you do come into it, you want to be sort of star of the show."

Whatever about saving one, Murphy admits he has half an eye on taking one himself, should he be called to do so.

In 2018, he scored four points from long range frees in Parnell Park against Dublin in the opening round of the championship and has, in the past, taken both frees and penalties for Glenmore.

"Yeah, I wouldn't mind it," he confirms.

"If it comes to it, yeah...we played the Walsh Cup final two years ago I think it was and it went to frees against Wexford in Nowlan Park and I took a free. So no issue with that.

"So if I was asked or if I was told beforehand, I wouldn't mind, there'd be no issue there."

Given these revised terms and conditions, there is a body of opinion suggesting that this championship will be diminished in the eyes of history.

According to Murphy, Kilkenny will "need to be at the top of our game if we feel we should be winning an All-Ireland."

And he is adamant that if they do manage to bridge a five-year gap and reclaim Liam MacCarthy, it won't lack anything for the time of year in which it was won.

"It certainly won't mean any less. It will be unusual at the time of the year.

"But with the quality of surfaces and stadiums around the country, I don't think it is going to be an issue unless we have a complete washout.

"So from that point of view, it's not going to be a factor. I think with everything going on it will mean a huge amount to communities and for people who have been affected by it…that it will maybe be a light at the end of the tunnel.

"Because," he concludes, "for long periods it didn't look like anything was going to take place."