Instead of going through his paces in the cold and damp of Nowlan Park, Murphy sharpened his skills in stifling heat in central Africa while on deployment with the Army in Chad.
“It was different experience but it was hugely enjoyable,” says Murphy. “I was there for four months, including Christmas, and got back in February. Stephen Molumphy from Waterford was there and he used to head up the training we had every Wednesday.
“If we were on patrol as well we’d bring some hurls with us and have a puck around.
“It wasn’t easy with the heat and some of the hurls cracked as it was so hot. They call the pitch outside there Croke Park as well but it’s just a sand area that’s rock hard. It’s not that great but we did a small bit.
“There’s an extra pep in your step when you come back because you appreciate home more. But being in the Army is good, they’re very accommodating. There’s a good GAA crew of us based in the barracks in Kilkenny with Stephen Molumphy, Eoin Larkin and Ciarán Kennedy, who plays football for Wexford.”
Tonight Murphy lines out at midfield for Kilkenny in the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21HC quarter-final against Offaly, (Nowlan Park, 7.30pm). The grade has provided mixed fortunes for him, with success over Tipperary in his first All-Ireland final in 2008 before being pipped by a point by Clare in last season’s decider.
“We’ve bad memories of last year but it’s ammunition for the year ahead.”
Kilkenny’s team contains no senior stars but that does not dull the ambition of this batch of U21s. Murphy cherishes the achievement of winning the All-Ireland junior hurling title with his club Danesfort in 2006 and has observed the progress of club colleagues, the Hogan brothers Paddy and Richie.
“They’re after setting an example for us in the club. Richie started the senior All-Ireland last year and Paddy has come into the senior scene now. To have two fellas like that in the same club as you, is a good help.”
Kilkenny boast a strong starting 15 tonight. Corner-back Alan Cuddihy and midfielder Fennelly were both members of Ballyhale’s All-Ireland club winning side in March, wing-back PJ Rowe impressed for Waterford IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup, while Bergin, Walter Walsh and James Nolan carry the scoring burden in attack.
Offaly field six senior panellists, in goalkeeper James Dempsey, full-back Eanna Murphy, centre-back Stephen Wynne, midfielder Derek Morkan, and half-forward’s James Mulrooney and Daniel Currams.
The other quarter-final tonight sees Laois face Carlow in Portlaoise, 7.30pm. Laois are spearheaded by Andrew Collier, Neil Foyle and Tomás Burke, and Carlow are backboned by Denis Murphy, Alan Corcoran and Paudie Kehoe.
KILKENNY U21: C McGrath; A Cuddihy, C Fogarty, R Doyle; PJ Rowe, K Mooney, D Langton; P Murphy, C Fennelly; M Bergin, JJ Dunphy, L Ryan; E Murphy, W Walsh, J Nolan.
OFFALY: U-21 J Dempsey; C Duignan, E Murphy, B Coughlan; C Egan, S Wynne, B Harding; D Morkan, B Lonergan; J Mulrooney, D Currams, D Gath; T Carroll, M Egan, T Spain.
LAOIS U-21: E. Reilly, B. Smith, B. Galvin, P. Flynn, B. Guilfoyle, T. Burke (capt.), L. Broderick, A. Collier, B. Glynn, C. Murray, J. Gaughan, J. O’Loughlin, T. J. Lalor, N. Foyle, D. O’Mahoney