Sunday 17 November 2019

'The Prodigal Son' is out to ruin weekend family reunion

Jordi Murphy
Jordi Murphy

You have to have self-belief bordering on self-delusion in certain situations in this game.

There is absolutely no way any reasonable man, woman or child could make a case for Ulster to upset Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final.

And yet, this is the one Jordi Murphy has been waiting for since the first bead of sweat dropped from his brow in pre-season.

Luckily, the 27-year-old wasn't there to suffer the ignominy of a 40-7 defeat to Leinster at The RDS in January.

Ulster will host the PRO14 League champions in the last regular match of the season at Kingspan Stadium.

This means 'The Prodigal Son' will walk into the away changing-rooms in The Aviva in his first appearance against his home province.

"It was one of the things I was definitely looking forward to when I decided I was going to be moving up here," he said.

"Knockout rugby in Europe is very exciting and to be doing it with a young new group, a new coach and new staff this year is everything that I came here to do.

"It's just great that it's on such a big stage and back in the Aviva, where I have some pretty fond memories.

"And I'm hoping to make a few more."

The friendship between Murphy and a plethora of his Leinster mates will be suspended for 80 minutes and the extra-time it takes to recover from what happens.

He will be going up against some of those who blocked his path to being hailed as first choice when everyone is fit and firing.

The transition from boy-in-blue to one in all-white has been made easier by the cluster of players from Leinster and further afield playing for the northern province. It has been a home to those from near and far, John Cooney finding the province which launched his international career.

Murphy entered the province as one of many from outside Ulster, as opposed to one of the few, like James Lowe at Leinster.

The quick integration does make sense in that there are many men in the same boat, all looking to build a new life for however many years. "It's been easier to buy into the Ulster culture because there's a good core of Ulstermen here, but also there are people from abroad and from other provinces, who look on Ulster as home now.

"We're all really enjoying playing as a group," he stated.

"I guess we've become quite tight-knit because a lot of the boys mightn't have originally come from here."

The social circle away from work revolves around the connections made at work.

"We spend a lot of time meeting up with each other outside of playing or training.

"Our families and girlfriends are all friends as well, which always helps.

"I feel we're a tight group and it's been pretty easy. The boys have made it that way."

Where there is no family, they have had to create one.

It is a bond that will take breaking by Leinster.

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