Daryl Murphy finding his best in the twilight of his career

Nottingham Forest man is the national side’s form striker before crucial final group games

Ireland’s Daryl Murphy during training ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

Ireland’s Daryl Murphy during training ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

At 34-years-old, Daryl Murphy is one of the senior statesmen in the Ireland squad for this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales.

Yet while he is firmly in the twilight of his career, in some ways the Nottingham Forest striker is only just getting started.

Having first played for Ireland in 2007 Murphy has still only accumulated 26 caps – 15 of which have come since Martin O’Neill recalled him from the international wilderness in 2014.

Murphy has been a regular face in the Ireland set-up ever since, but perhaps for the first time in his career he heads into this international window as the national side’s form striker.

Indeed, Murphy has been thriving since his summer move to the City Ground from Newcastle United –and has scored six goals in 11 Championship appearances.

Meanwhile Ireland’s other striking options have not been faring so well. Shane Long – who missed training on Tuesday with a dead leg – is yet to score for Southampton this season, and he has managed a solitary goal, in the win over the Moldovans in Chisinau, during a frustrating qualification campaign.

And with Robbie Brady and James McClean both suspended, David McGoldrick an injury doubt, and the trio of Sean Maguire, Scott Hogan and Aiden O’Brien all yet to win their first caps, the white-hot Murphy could find himself at the head of O’Neill’s striking options come Friday night.

It has, however, taken a long time for Murphy to find himself in this position. “I’ve missed out on a lot with Ireland,” he said.

“Fair play to the gaffer here because he brought me in from nowhere. I was doing well at the time at club level but fair play for bringing me back, because if it was under the previous manager I probably would have never played for Ireland again.”

This season is shaping up to be Murphy’s most prolific since he scored 27 for Ipswich Town in the 2014/5 season. So why has it taken until the latter stages of his career for him to really take flight?

“I don’t know,” he said. “Experience, I can’t really put my finger on it. I’ve been asked it a lot, just not worrying about it too much if things are not going your way.

“When I was younger it would play on my mind whereas now I’ve been in that position and the best way to get over it is to keep calm and do what you’re good at. That’s probably why. . .”

Sleeping giant

Murphy swapped one sleeping giant for another during the summer after helping Newcastle gain promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking – scoring six times and featuring regularly during the Championship run-in.

However, there was never any real prospect of him being retained by boss Rafael Benitez despite helping engineer a return to the top flight.

“Listen, I loved my time there. I enjoyed every minute of it. The management told me, I knew going there that it was going to be hard for me to play if we got promoted so I was being realistic when I went there about what would happen if we went up, and he was honest with me at the end of the season.”

Forest are Murphy’s third club in as many seasons, and his young family have returned home while he enjoys his Indian summer across the Irish sea.

“It is hard but at the end of the day I wasn’t moving my kids around any longer. They have done it for long enough and my eldest girl is 12 so she was starting in first year back here and it was just a case of getting them settled. Once they’re happy I’m happy. That’s all that matters.”

Under the guidance of Mark Warburton, Forest currently lie 13th in the Championship, with five wins and six defeats in their 11 games a perfect pointer to the unpredictability and competitive nature of the division.

And Murphy is confident he can help return the East Midlands club to a renewal of distant glories: “When I signed there was a buzz around the place, they have new owners and want to put some money into the club.

“They’ve changed some of the training ground and done it up, they’ve done some of the stadium up and they want it to be back rocking really, and I think for our home games we’ve had some decent crowds and the fans have been good. We’ve played well but we’re just not getting that rub of the green at the moment.”

Last week one of Murphy’s direct contemporaries, Kevin Doyle, announced his retirement from football on medical advice after suffering a number of concussions.

But Doyle’s retirement is not something which would lead the all-action Murphy to change his approach on the pitch: “The ball is there to be won, you’ve got to try and win it. You can’t pull out thinking of a bang in the head and stuff like that. It happens every day in training so, you can’t think like that.”

And while Murphy could rue missed chances with Ireland down the years, qualification for next year’s World Cup – and pulling on the green jersey in Russia – would provide an “unbelievable” swansong.

“I said it to my wife that if I was ever going to go out it would be on top, but we’ve got a bit of a job on to make sure that happens.”

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