Eoin Murphy passes on lessons of 2008 to Déise young guns

‘The best three weeks of my life followed by the worst six,’ says Waterford selector

Eoin Murphy doesn't mince his words when it come to recalling the All-Ireland final he played in.

The Waterford selector was corner-back in 2008 and went into the final with an All Star already under his belt from 2006 and a growing constituency pushing his claims for another. He'd kept Eoin Kelly to a couple of points from play in the semi-final against Tipperary and now he was seen as a solid, dependable presence in the Waterford full-back line as they went about containing Kilkenny.

And then Eddie Brennan racked up 2-4, including a couple of rat-a-tat goals inside a minute midway through the first half. There was no All Star for Eoin Murphy. No All Star nomination. And, obviously, no All-Ireland.

“I have probably tried to delete the whole game from my memory,” he says. “I shared it with the lads there last week. It was the best three weeks of my life followed by the worst six. I dreamed of playing in an All-Ireland final for so long as a young fella, just not that one. That one never came into my dreams. That was a nightmare.

“They totally hit the ground running and we just met a storm on the day. They went for it and they just put us away. Unfortunately, it was gone after 10 or 15 minutes. There was no way back at that stage and unfortunately, it was like dominos for the whole group – you just flick them and they’re gone.”

The world turns and they play an All-Ireland final every September, none of them the same. And so he wouldn’t presume to impose his experience from nine years ago on this group of Waterford players, or to imagine it would do them any good if he did. What he will say – and has said – is that it helps to get an idea of how quickly a final goes by.

“It’s a bit like your wedding day. All the preparation that goes into it, before you know it, it’s over. It’s gone like that. And of course, we want the group to enjoy it as well. Because this is what every young person who puts on an intercounty jersey, hurling and football wants. They want to get to the first Sunday in September or the third Sunday. So we’re not going to totally cocoon them.

Hone in

“They can still enjoy it and embrace the final and the build-up. But there’s a balance there, especially coming into the last week, where you want to have everything sorted, be it tickets or whatever else. And just really, really hone in on the match, kind of like the sight on a gun. You want to keep that focus on the match.”

Murphy hasn't been with the Waterford hurlers for very long, only since 10 days before their June 18th championship opener against Cork, in fact. He lives in Midleton in Cork so when he heard they were on a training weekend down in Fota Island, he called in for coffee with his old team-mates Kevin Moran and Brick Walsh. McGrath teased him that he would look good in a bib that day but the official approach to join the back room came later.

So in a way, he feels only partially connected to all of this. On the inside, yes. But sufficiently new to it that he is able to offer it up as someone else’s achievement without passing it off as false modesty.

“Derek [McGrath] approached me in early June and it was like the stars aligned. I hadn’t gone back with my club this year, I had taken a break from hurling for five or six months just to do some other things and spend some time with family. But when the message came through, my eyes lit up.

“For me coming in in June, I feel extremely lucky and privileged and grateful to be given the opportunity. Derek started this job with Dan [Shanahan] four years ago. It’s easy for me to come in just 10 days before championship. I will just be delighted for the group, more so than for myself if we can get over the line.

“I think the best management just facilitates the players to get the best out of themselves. For me, it’s seeing players reaching their absolute maximum, really attacking and going for it, hurling on instinct. So it’s fantastic and I will be personally over the moon if we win. But I think honestly I will be over the moon for the group and the players.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times