Paul Murphy: ‘It was a battle from the start’

Kilkenny corner back concedes luck played part against Limerick

Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy and Graeme Mulcahy of Limerick struggle for the ball in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy and Graeme Mulcahy of Limerick struggle for the ball in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 01:00

In those elemental last 10 minutes on Sunday, Kilkenny were in all-hands mode but some of them got closer to the pump than others.

Brian Hogan got on the ball four times including block on what was a certain point. Conor Fogarty and Joey Holden did likewise, with Fogarty managing to throw in a hook and a block as well.

Cillian Buckley and Jackie Tyrrell were on the ball twice, Richie Hogan three times. At one stage, every Kilkenny player bar Henry Shefflin and Colin Fennelly were in their own half stringing an iron curtain across the half-back line for Limerick to attempt to pierce. No dice.

And when James McGrath called for the ball after the final whistle, it was resting in the paw of Paul Murphy. The Kilkenny corner back spent those 10 minutes sweeping across in front of his goal and behind his full-back line. When Richie McCarthy sent in the last-chance Limerick attack with a spooned ball into the Kilkenny square, it was Murphy who fought his way to the front to take the catch and finish the game.

Luck and determination “It’s a very short time that you’re going up for it but you’re aware that everyone’s probably going for this ball along with you. I don’t think I even knew that I caught it for a second

– you could hear lads were coming in on top of you. A lot of days you wouldn’t catch it, especially in those conditions. But thankfully I got it. The legs were tired at that stage but you want to make one last effort to get it over the line. It could have another way another day.

“It was just such a battle from the start. We knew coming in that Limerick’s work rate was going to be absolutely massive and that it was going to be that way for 70 minutes. Thankfully we matched it at stages and they outdone us at stages as well. The game just ebbed and flowed. Luckily we were on the right side of the scoreboard in the end but it really could have gone either way and I think everyone knows that.”

That they didn’t have it all their own way came as no surprise. But even so, they must have been put back on their heels by the intensity that Limerick brought to the game. Did it surprise them?

“Not in the slightest. And that’s not just saying it now. We knew well Limerick’s work rate is what makes them. I think it’s their main aspect and the work of likes of Paul Browne and Donal O’Grady is huge. I think it starts inside with the likes of Graham Mulcahy and these lads. They just hound you and we knew would happen.

Calm before the storm “Their intensity at the start was a little bit higher than ours maybe but we got ours up to their level eventually. But no, we knew what they would come with. I think maybe the fact that it didn’t surprise us meant we were able to keep calm because we were expecting it though.

“We knew that Limerick were capable of this. We knew they weren’t going to give up. They probably felt a bit disappointed from last year’s semi-final that they didn’t perform the way they wanted and this year they were certainly going to try and make up for it. I think they did make up for it. They had their time, we had our time but thankfully we got through. It’s a massive tribute to them how they played.”

Limerick weren’t the only ones who came to Croke Park looking to make up for last year, of course. Kilkenny’s season famously didn’t even make it that far in 2013 and however hard they insist that they do what they do because that’s what they do, they can’t deny that they’re looking to make up for lost time this summer.

“Absolutely,” says Murphy. “Making the quarter-final last year wasn’t our aim. To lose out last year and not to even make a semi-final or even get to Croke Park was a big loss. But we are really just focusing on each game to be honest. Because the games have been intense, be they against Galway or Dublin or Limerick. We’re really just focusing on each match. Last year, we just put it aside. It is motivation but we put it aside.”

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