Murphy leads from front as pride of Carlow deliver victory set to linger long in memory
‘Everybody is on cloud nine. We are enjoying it, thoroughly enjoying it’
Triumphant Mount Leinster Rangers corner forward Denis Murphy, scorer of eight points in Sunday’s GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship Final, celebrates after the game. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
In Borris yesterday, the haze of celebration was lifting, but only gradually and not to any particular schedule. Mount Leinster Rangers arrived back from Kilkenny on Sunday night to packed streets, a first senior provincial hurling title in Carlow’s history in their luggage.
For corner forward Denis Murphy, scorer of eight points in Sunday’s final against Oulart-The-Ballagh, the night will stay in the memory as long as they day.
“Ah, it was brilliant,” he says. “There was a real sense of achievement around the place. The streets were packed and it went for players, management, families, parish, the whole lot. Everybody is on cloud nine. We are enjoying it, thoroughly enjoying it.”
However hard-earned it was for the club as a whole, few can match Murphy in terms of hardship borne to get to this point. A classy teenager in both codes, he lost Leinster minor finals with Carlow in hurling in 2007 and football in 2007.
He ruptured a cruciate in 2008 playing freshers football for UCD and had just come back to something like his best form and fitness when the other one went in the summer of 2010.
“I was playing for Carlow in the [hurling] championship and we beat Laois in the first round of the qualifiers. I was going well again and the knee was in good order; but then went up to play Antrim in Belfast in the next round and I ruptured my cruciate on the other knee just before half-time.”
Two cruciates torn by the age of 20. But he found his way back, only to see life lay down a new hurdle for him to jump. A post-graduate teaching course came up in Glasgow but with Mount Leinster Rangers were gathering up county titles by the handful, he hated the idea of missing out.
So for the next two years, as long as Rangers were still involved in the championship, he was on a plane back for the weekend. In 2011, that stretched from September to the following February and ended in an All Ireland intermediate title.
Last year, it took until November before he could enjoy a weekend without seeing an airport.
“It was two busy years. A lot of flying, a lot of travelling. I was limited enough in the amount of training I was able to do so realistically I wasn’t very sharp. I wasn’t as good as I should have been.”
Home now for good, he was the difference between the sides on Sunday. His frees kept Rangers in the game in a nervy first half and as the temperature rose in the second, so did his strike-rate. No wides after the break, not a single miss. Two points from play, six from frees in total, including a couple from inside his own half.
It was striking on Sunday just how much support Murphy’s team had from outside their own club, with ordinary GAA fans from all over Carlow roaring them on. The noise levels told of something bigger than just a Leinster club title. The county needed it.
“That wasn’t just yesterday but against Ballyboden as well,” says Murphy. “Everyone rowed in behind us. It’s a great achievement for Carlow hurling . . . a platform to go on with from here.
“We’ll play hard and tough against each other within Carlow again when the time comes but everybody was behind us. You might often get a bit of begrudgery in some other counties but everybody wanted this for Carlow hurling.”