Daryl dares to dream
From 'nowhere man' to 'main man', Daryl Murphy has undergone some journey in the shirt of the national team.
And the Nottingham Forest forward believes it's his destiny to play at the World Cup finals in Russia next year at the age of 35, Murphy adamant that this Republic of Ireland team can get over the hurdle of the play-offs next month and enjoy a Russian summer, in the Indian summer of his own career.
"I think we can get through," he says. "On nights like Monday in Cardiff we just perform, simple as that, to get the result we needed. We have a hunger and togetherness that, on our day, we can beat anybody."
At times, the Waterford man has to take stock of where he is right now, second-top scorer for Ireland in the group having started in the last two qualifiers. Back when Ireland faced France in a play-off for the 2010 World Cup, he was way off the radar in terms of the international team.
He wasn't to know it, but when Murphy came off the bench to replace Stephen Hunt late on in a Euro qualifier at home to Cyprus ten years ago this month, there would be a seven-year wait for his next competitive appearance for his country.
"No chance, definitely not," Murphy says when asked if, five years ago, he could have foreseen a possible World Cup finals appearance.
"But that's football for you, things change overnight, it's just the faith that the manager put in me, brought me in from the cold, starting me in big games for Ireland and I have done alright in them and he continues to trust me. And I think it gives any player confidence if the manager trusts you.
"It would be unbelievable to play in the World Cup, the icing on the cake, the pinnacle of anyone's career, nothing beats that. I have played at the Euros, I will be 35 if we qualify, how good would that be?"
Murphy was brought back into the fold by Martin O'Neill and, after appearances in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, play-offs and the the finals, he's come into his own for this World Cup effort which leaves Ireland 180 minutes away from glory.
"It's everyone believing, it's that belief. We know that everyone will give their all for the cause and for the shirt, we have had some results against big teams and that obviously gives you confidence into the next one, every time we have a big game we always produce, we always come out on top, and it just runs through everyone in the team," says Murphy.
"You are brought in to do a job, you know if you don't play well or perform, that someone is waiting to take your place. Like me, I have waited how many years to get into the position I am in now, to start in games, it was up to me to take my chance and I have done that in the last few games.
"I have done all I can in the last two games. The manager has started me in the last two games, I have had two good results so hopefully I can take some confidence from these results, take that back to Nottingham Forest and continue where I left off there, doing well and scoring goals, and when the play-offs come I will be in a position where the manager trusts me to start," added Murphy, playing a lonely role up front at times, like Monday in Cardiff, yet no moans.
"You are a professional footballer, the least thing you can do is to run for 90 minutes, so if it's one of them games where you are chasing shadows, chasing lost causes and all of that, you just need one chance for a game to change.
"You could be having the worst game ever and getting nothing but one chance comes along, you take it and you are a hero.
"Strikers in particular know they need to do that, work as hard as they can for as long as they can and then just take that chance."
Murphy had a fellow Waterford native on the field at home to Moldova last week as Seán Maguire made his debut and veteran Murphy, who was first called into the senior squad by Steve Staunton back in 2006, has welcomed the fresh faces.
"It's nice, because we have a few old players in the squad now, we have been in for a while and we have been looking to see if anyone was coming through," Murphy reflects.
"To be honest, it wasn't really but some players have come out now, they are young and hungry, and you love to see that, coming into the squad and getting experience, like I did all those years ago, it's a great feeling to be involved in games like Wales.
"I was never involved in high-profile games when I first came into the squad so it's an experience, it's brilliant," concluded Murphy.