Saturday 18 January 2020

Murphy recounts the call that ended a World Cup dream

PAIN: Ireland and Ulster rugby player Jordi Murphy during the Aviva Mini Rugby Nations Cup at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Pic: Sportsfile
PAIN: Ireland and Ulster rugby player Jordi Murphy during the Aviva Mini Rugby Nations Cup at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Pic: Sportsfile

As Ireland rampaged around Yokohama scattering Scots before them, the mind was inclined to drift away to Jordi Murphy.

Okay, it had a lot to do with the fact the Dubliner was due to appear at the Avia Mini-Rugby Nations Cup three hours after Ireland rediscovered themselves in Japan.

Where was he watching it? How was he feeling about it?

Rewinding the clock, it had to be a real mind-check to work through a back-breaking pre-season, all the way to the final cut, only to discover you have been cut adrift.

Worse again, the team-oriented loose forward was asked, and agreed, to stay on and assist in Ireland's finishing touches before departing for Japan.

Talk about the knife twisting in his gut.

Murphy is that rare animal given over to the media hawks to pick over the emotions of his omission.

After Devin Toner, the Ulster breakaway forward was the biggest surprise exclusion from the travelling party.

He takes us back to the dreaded call.

"Yeah, it has to be the biggest disappointment of my career really," he said.

"As soon as Joe Schmidt pops up on your phone, chances are it's not good news.

"I was at a family thing. The phone started ringing and I had to take it outside and take what was coming.

"I suppose it was a five-minute chat. I don't really remember much of it. It is bit of a blur.

"He chats to you, gives an insight into the decision. At that stage, it is hard to listen to it. You politely say thanks and that's it."

If only that were true. Coach Schmidt had just one more request of his loyal soldier.

Murphy, Will Addison a nd Kieran Marmion accepted the offer to turn up at Carton House for those final excruciating days.

"The first day or two, it didn't even sink in," he added.

"I was never going to say no. It was definitely not the place I wanted to be. But it had to be done and you know you are the first port of call if someone goes down.

"Whenever I wasn't at training or in meetings, I was in my room. I didn't want to be in the (team) room, sucking the energy out of it for the players at such an exciting time for them.

"It is a strange one. They are commiserating with you when you are congratulating them.

"It is tough to fall on the wrong side of it. That's just the way it is."

Two weeks on, Murphy watched Ireland and Scotland in his home in Belfast with his girlfriend Laura and their two dogs, Charlie and Kobe.

Murphy had a good feeling about the game as soon as Iain Henderson made that incision that eventually forced Scotland to bleed seven points.

By the 70th minute, the game was in the bag and Murphy skipped down to Dublin for his appearance.

In one performance, the narrative around Ireland has already changed.

This is where a commitment to shutting out the external noise will be embraced.

"Internally, they won't be getting ahead of themselves at all," said Murphy.

"There is a six-day turnaround and we're playing the tournament hosts, who have pulled out a list of big results in the last number of years.

"Ireland definitely don't want to be on that list.

"Now that Japan have seen Scotland beaten, they might be sniffing an opportunity to take top spot in the Pool.

"I'm sure they wouldn't mind playing South Africa in the quarters," he said, in relation to the 2015 win over the Springboks.

"If anyone can look back in the archives to a big day, it is them."

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