Tuesday 21 November 2017

Murphy: We will savour Dublin match

Midfield ace admits he 'owed the team and the people of Carlow a big game'

Carlow’s Brendan Murphy celebrates with Darragh Foley after scoring his side’s second goal against Wexford during the Leinster SFC Round 1 match at Netwatch Cullen Park last Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
Carlow’s Brendan Murphy celebrates with Darragh Foley after scoring his side’s second goal against Wexford during the Leinster SFC Round 1 match at Netwatch Cullen Park last Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

In a county where football icons have long been an endangered species, Brendan Murphy qualifies as a living, breathing talisman.

A 6ft 5in kickout magnet. A giant in the literal sense and also when it mattered, with Sunday's game in the melting pot. Plus a goalscoring hero to boot ... the Carlow midfielder was all this and more against Wexford.

It's only fitting, then, that Murphy should have an opportunity to pit himself against the best - aka Dublin - on Saturday week.

Yet if you talk to the Rathvilly man, he hasn't been his best of late and that's another reason why last Sunday in Netwatch Cullen Park - Carlow's first win in Leinster since 2011 - was so special to him.

The result was vindication for all the hard work and improvements registered by Carlow under Turlough O'Brien, unnoticed by many. It was also, in part, a personal validation.

As Murphy told The Herald: "I owed the team a big game, and I owed the people of Carlow a big game. I've been disappointed with how things have been going recently enough and, like that, the years are creeping on, you don't know when it's going to be your last one.

"So, I suppose today meant a lot and just thankfully I was able to help the lads."



In what way, you wonder, did he owe Carlow? "I set high standards for myself," he explained, "and when I don't achieve it then I'm very disappointed. Just, last year's Leinster championship game against Louth, I was very disappointed with how I performed and there was a comment that I was finished.

"So that kind of sticks in the back of your mind, and I was just doing everything I could to try and help the lads today. And everyone was outstanding, 1 to 20; the lads that came on, young lads that had no championship experience before. It's a good day for Carlow."

Now for the hard question: how do you measure what constitutes a 'good day' against Dublin?

Yesterday, 'David' was being quoted at 25/1 to cause a Portlaoise earthquake while 'Goliath' in Sky Blue was available at 1/500. No one of sound mind expects this to be anything other than a Bank Holiday jaunt for Jim Gavin's treble-chasers … but Murphy still views it as an occasion to embrace, not to fear.

"In the back of your head you're thinking, 'Jesus, it's the All-Ireland champions.' For me, it's the best team that's ever playing football," he declared.

"But, in saying that, we can take positives out of it. We can learn from the build-up into the game; we can learn from the way they play the game, how they set up. We can see, first hand, how good they really are.

"If, after the game, we can take one or two things back to Carlow football that we'll learn on the day, it will be great.

"And it's great for the people who've been following the team for years. A big crowd; the All-Ireland champions. Whatever happens at the final whistle, that'll be it. But it's just great to be there. It's great for Carlow football to get the exposure."

Carlow, he stressed, must avoid the obvious pitfall of wondering "what's the difference going to be?" and consequently going "back into ourselves. It's important for us, and for Carlow football, that we really stick the chest out; just embrace the challenge."



Murphy plundered 1-2 from play in the second half against Wexford, but his scoring prowess coming from midfield won't surprise Jim Gavin. Back in 2010, he tallied 0-3 and was many people's Man of the Match as Carlow fell agonisingly short to Dublin, 0-14 to 0-13 after extra-time, in a Leinster U21 semi-final.

That game ended in controversy, Murphy making a soaring catch 25 metres from goal only to be surrounded by Dublin defenders and punished for over-carrying, with the Cullen Park faithful screaming for a free-in that would surely have forced a replay.

Compounding Carlow's angst, Dublin went on to achieve Leinster and All-Ireland U21 glory.

Murphy is now 28; the one-time Aussie Rules recruit has lived on a starvation diet compared to the triumphs feasted on by Dublin U21s of that year, Rory O'Carroll, James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper and Dean Rock.

"We're not going to go back too much in time, but we'll take something from it," he said, harking back to 2010. "That day we felt confident, just really went at it, and that's just the mentality we're going to have to bring on Saturday week.

"We're going to go and give it everything. And just enjoy it. Just to see how these (Dublin) lads move; see how they take their scores and work it as a team. And just learn something and bring that to Carlow football. And that's the best we can do."

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