Mind games: Ireland’s Conor Murray on managing stress through mindfulness

Mind games: Ireland’s Conor Murray on managing stress through mindfulness

Few were surprised when Munster’s Conor Murray was selected for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup team. 

The Limerick native is widely known for his physicality, decision making and experience.

“That comes with the position I play in — I’ve been around the squad for a number of years and you definitely understand the way we play and what’s required to get prepared for an international game,” he says.

Aged 30, he’s keen to encourage younger members of the squad. 

“You definitely remember the guys that come up to you and help you out — it’s part of the responsibility.”

Though he’s serious about his sport and the responsibility he carries, he values his downtime too, enjoying a long game of golf with his friends and spending time with his girlfriend, Joanna Cooper.

A recent Instagram shot he posted of the pair in Caherdaniel drew positive responses from his followers, including an engagement ring emoji. So does he have any news?

Anytime there’s a picture of the two of us my friends tend to say congratulations and try to cause a bit of a stir — they love that. So no news yet but it’s all good.

Conor launched the Aviva Mini Rugby Nations Cup: Aviva is giving 20 U10 boys’ and U12 girls’ teams the chance to play on the same pitch as their heroes on September 22; aviva.ie/safetodream

What shape are you in?

We’ve had a really good eight-week block of pre-season work — it’s been the toughest one I’ve put down — from chatting with the players as well they agree. 

Having come out the far side of that and still standing, I feel great. Some of the running sessions have been quite tough but they are all worth it.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

We all have quite a strict diet. It’s very easy for you when you’re in camp and you’ve every meal laid out for you. 

The biggest challenge for me is when I’m at home. 

I enjoy going into town for a grocery shop on a Sunday, doing a bit of prepping for the week ahead — as best I can — so you’re ready to go. 

Thankfully, I find it enjoyable but it can be a bit of a struggle at times.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Definitely crisps and dips — particularly Doritos and its sour cream and chives dip.

What would keep you awake at night?

Sometimes the pressure of performance — a big game or maybe an injury. 

We have a really good focus on mindfulness and meditation these days. 

We started doing it as a group in national camp a few years ago — myself and a few other lads have probably taken a bit more of an interest in it. 

It’s really assuring — it’s a nice comfort blanket.

How do you relax?

A trip to Caherdaniel — just peace and quiet and no phone signal. I used to spend every summer there as a child but it’s rare I get down there now. 

Also, playing a bit of golf with the lads — it takes four hours and it’s got a competitive element to it too which I quite enjoy. 

I’d be into food quite a bit too, trying out new restaurants and cooking new things.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Tiger Woods — how he can come back from being at such a low and get himself mentally and physically strong enough to make a comeback like winning the Masters is really impressive. 

And Joe Rogan — he does a great podcast. He’s a really intelligent guy and into everything.

What’s your favourite smell?

There’s a distinct smell in Caherdaniel that I love — it’s fuchsia.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’ve a grey patch in my hair and when I was at school I used to cut it out but within a few years I just accepted it as part of who I am. 

Once you’re happy in your own skin, you’re doing OK.

When did you last cry?

Maybe two years ago when Munster lost the European semi-final. But it didn’t last long. 

I think there are more important things to be crying over.

What traits do you least like in others?

A waiter who has bad manners. Or if you’re in company and someone is rude to the waiter.

What traits do you least like in yourself?

At times I tend to put things off when I should deal with them there and then. 

I’ve gotten better at it but sometimes it creeps back in — it can make the problem worse when you don’t deal with it straight away.

Do you pray?

I try to pray most nights — just my own prayers. At times it slips away — I don’t do it as much as I should.

What would cheer up your day?

An interaction with someone being genuinely nice to you. It fills you with a bit of hope.

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