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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Time to bury the nightmare of '08

Murphy recalls 'worst six weeks of my life'

Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan gets away from Waterford’s Eoin Murphy during the All-Ireland SHC Final at Croke Park in 2008. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan gets away from Waterford’s Eoin Murphy during the All-Ireland SHC Final at Croke Park in 2008. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Don't mention the war. Don't mention the 2008 All-Ireland hurling final.

In fact, Eoin Murphy has no problem sharing his experience of that demoralising day against Kilkenny, for the Déise collective and personally, chasing Eddie Brennan's shadow.

But the Waterford selector doesn't see it as having any relevance to this Sunday's showdown with Galway. Kevin Moran and Michael 'Brick' Walsh may remain as players still chasing the dream; himself and Dan Shanahan have switched from the pitch to Derek McGrath's backroom team ... but this is a very different Waterford.

Delete

As for the day itself, and that 3-30 to 1-13 collapse to the greatest team of all-time, Murphy admits: "I have probably tried to delete the whole game from my memory. I shared it with the lads there last week. It was the best three weeks of my life followed by the worst six.

"I dreamed of playing in an All-Ireland final for so long as a young fella, just not that one. That one never came into my dreams. That was a nightmare."

When did the 'shock and awe' hit him? "The second goal. Or maybe the third goal!" he says.

"They totally hit the ground running and we just met a storm on the day. They went for it and they just put us away.

"It was gone after 10 or 15 minutes. There was no way back at that stage and, unfortunately, it was like dominoes for the whole group - you just flick them and they're gone."

Murphy is keen, though, not to over-state the potential lessons to be learned.

"Every year develops into its own unique identity," he explains. "That's the only thing I brought up about 2008, sharing my experience. That's the way I felt. The best three weeks followed by the worst six weeks where I wanted the ground to open up and I didn't want to meet anyone. That's all I said.

"And you know what? I'm not going to hark back to it with them because I believe this group is a new Waterford.

"The culture is probably a bit different; they're a different set of players. They're grounded and they're able to deal with whatever's thrown at them. The challenge for us as management is to try and keep the focus on the match."

And those 70 minutes are ultimately all that counts - even on such special and, for Waterford, rare occasions as an All-Ireland final.

Murphy is still relatively new to McGrath's management team; he was officially ratified as a selector ahead of the qualifiers, having filled an advisory role in the lead-up to their Munster semi-final loss to Cork.

"We went all in up to the match in O'Connor Park against Offaly in the first qualifier," he recalls. "We're now going all in again in another park - it just happens to be Croke Park. The most important thing is the match at the end of the day. Everything else is totally diminished and has to be way outside our focus and our radar."

Still, it's important that players appreciate just how fast the day itself can go. "It's a bit like your wedding day. All the preparation that goes into it and, before you know, it's over. It's gone like that," says Murphy.

"And of course, we want the group to enjoy it as well. Because this is what every young person who puts on an inter-county jersey, hurling and football, wants.

"They want to get to the first Sunday in September or the third Sunday. So we're not going to totally cocoon them. They can still enjoy it and embrace the build-up. But there's a balance, especially coming into the last week, where you want to have everything sorted, be it tickets or whatever else. And just really, really hone in on the match, kind of like the sight on a gun."

Traumatic

It's all a far cry from the (literally) traumatic end to his own Déise adventure, precipitated by a "freak accident" on the field. "I fractured my skull in 2011 in a club game," the 2006 All Star recounts. "I ended up going back for the end of that year but, yeah, I hung up the boots after that at inter-county level. I went back with the club, which my wife and my mother wouldn't have been too happy about. But I got the all-clear.

"I more or less blocked down a fella with my head. I got in a bit early and I flicked the ball away as he was turning ... he kept coming with his pull and I took the full force of it."

Murphy later released his scan for public consumption. "It's a bit like an Easter egg cracked in at one side," he explains. "I was a very lucky boy - the helmet saved my life."

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