It’s hardly a hurling stronghold nor an ideal base for pre-season preparations but Paul Murphy is confident that six months in Lebanon won’t ruin his 2020 Championship chances with Kilkenny.
A lieutenant in the Defence Forces, the 30-year-old defender will shortly deploy as part of the 115th infantry battalion for what will be his third tour of duty.
He was based in Chad in 2009 and flew out to Lebanon two years ago though on both of those occasions felt he made a seamless return to hurling once back at home.
There is also the positive example of former Kilkenny colleague Eoin Larkin who returned from a similar tour of duty in Kosovo to win the 2008 Hurler of the Year award, noting that the trip allowed him to get into peak physical condition.
Murphy said the reality is that he’ll almost certainly miss Kilkenny’s Championship opener against Dublin on the second weekend of May but he’s optimistic it’ll be business as usual after that.
“I felt when I came back the last time, I was probably never in as good condition,” said Murphy.
“I just had such a good routine. Mentally, I was very fresh coming home. I came on in the first Championship match, against Dublin, two years ago and it’s in your head because you’re thinking, ‘These lads are flying it’. You’re thinking, ‘Will I be caught out here?’
"But a ball came down between myself and Danny Sutcliffe, I caught it and it felt like I hadn’t been away. So whatever I had done, I felt okay. Whatever I did worked.
"So I know going out here again, I can do the same thing again and then slot back in to the panel.”
Ballyhale Shamrocks club man Richie Reid and several other hurlers will join Murphy on the overseas trip and the anticipation is that they will keep each other sharp.
“There’s a small astroturf pitch out there,” said Murphy.
“Aidan McCormack from Thurles is going, Richie Reid is going out as well. And generally on the trips you’ll have people who are playing senior club. I was on a trip with Stephen Molumphy of Waterford in Chad in 2009.
“Players will have it in their heads, ‘Okay, it’s all well and good having a puck around here on a Saturday but I want to be going back to my club or county and actually have a good touch’.
“So you have to use your initiative. There’s a big square out there, a parade square is what you call it. We go out there and we’re hitting the ball hard at each other. It’s concrete, it’s a little bit tougher but you have to make do with what you have. Technically, they’re the things you can do. You can find ball walls out there too, you have to get creative.”
Meanwhile, Patrickswell defender Diarmaid Byrnes has insisted that links between manager Ciarán Carey and the Galway job haven’t been unsettling for the club in recent weeks.
Limerick great Carey, who had a stint in charge of Kerry, was strongly linked with the Tribesmen role having guided Patrickswell to this year’s Limerick title.
They will be on duty again tomorrow in the AIB Munster club semi-finals against holders Ballygunner in Waterford.
Asked if rumours of Carey’s potential departure upset the group, Byrnes shook his head.
“No, not really, I hadn’t heard anything about it to be honest,” said Limerick defender Byrnes. “Lads said it to me outside of Patrickswell, asking me what the mood was like, but training went on as normal and there was nothing made of it. It definitely wasn’t unsettling or anything like that.”
Carey previously managed Patrickswell to the county final in 2015 before returning to the sideline for 2019 and going one better.
“He’s brilliant, a really player-centred kind of manager,” said Byrnes.
“He knows every player, their ins and outs, their weaknesses and he is a very good people person.
Ballygunner beat Limerick opposition, Na Piarsaigh, in last year’s Munster final and regained their county crown more recently with a big win over De La Salle before taking out Clare’s Sixmilebridge in Munster.
“They’ve won the last six titles in Waterford, I think,” said Byrnes. “They’re a serious club team. We’ll just look after ourselves and give it a rattle.”
Paul Murphy and Diarmaid Byrnes were speaking at the unveiling of a one-of-a-kind customised playing kit for the Aer Lingus sponsored New York Hurling Classic which takes place at Citi Field in New York on November 16 under Super 11s rules.