Murray on a mission to stop shots and Rebel rot

Cork camogie player Aoife Murray has experienced both sides of the coin, the ecstasy of All-Ireland glory, the heartache of defeat.

Last September’s loss to Wexford however, ran particularly deep. Though producing a string of top-class saves, the Rebel goalkeeper was beaten on three occasions. Cork fell by seven.

Into the winter and still the defeat played on her mind.

Tormented by images of Ursula Jacob’s ground stroke, Murray needed a release, a distraction, anything that didn’t involve a hurley, sliotar or a red jersey.

“I took up rugby during the winter to hide away from the disappointment,” she revealed. “I took the defeat very personally. The amount of physical effort that goes into getting yourself to a point where you can win an All-Ireland and then not to get the result...”

Opting to skip the early months of the current camogie season, Murray instead lined out for Old Belvedere’s second string and was soon nudged up the ladder. From standing between two odd posts since she first took a hurley in her hand, the cut and thrust of an outfield position thrilled her.

“I played inside centre and I genuinely fell in love with it. We didn’t do too badly at all. We won the Leinster Cup. It certainly is different playing outfield. The girls thought I was hilarious. When I got the ball all I wanted to do was run with it. It’s funny that I wasn’t even a forward, I was a back. I had the opportunities of scoring. It was like a role reversal. I have to say the enjoyment I got out of it made me see the positive side of sport again.”

The 29-year-old eventually returned to the Cork set-up, but couldn’t commit to venturing down the M8 three times a week. Work with property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle, finances and sanity would all suffer. An old friend up at the St Brigids club in Blanchardstown was contacted.

“In 2006, I moved up to Dublin when I finished college. I started playing football with St Brigids. There was a guy by the name of Declan Conlon involved with the hurling side of things at the club; someone said he did a bit of goalkeeping coaching.

“He trained me for two years and then I moved back to Cork for four years, but we stayed in contact. When I moved back up to Dublin a year and a half ago I was straight back onto him. He’s just fantastic.”

Murray is put through her paces twice a week, committing to making at least one session down south. Though the system is the most pragmatic, she misses the usual banter to be had on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Castle Road grounds.

Three wins from three in the championship has moved the Rebels to within an hour of a return to Croke Park and a shot at redemption. Standing in their way, however, are Kilkenny (Thurles, 2pm).

“Halfway through the league, my mother said to me ‘Kilkenny are going to win the All-Ireland’. It seems to be all about them, how well they are doing, how fresh they are. I’ve been around a long time and you hear these stories, be they about Galway or Wexford. Do you get overly concerned by it? You can’t.

“You can look at them, get all nervous and say ‘Jesus they have hit some amount of goals. Or you look at the positives, let’s look at ourselves, we have conceded only one goal in the championship and not a lot of points either.”

Interestingly, the Cork manager is her brother Paudie. Criticism is often levelled between brother and sister, goalkeeper and manager, but there are times when the tongue must be bitten.

“It makes for some interesting conversation at the dinner table,” she laughs.

“Paudie has trained me since I was U12. We can have fights and we will be talking two minutes later. Sometimes you have to remember he is your manager, more than your brother. If he criticises you, over the years I have had to learn to accept it. Because he is your brother, sometimes you are tempted to give a smart answer. It is learning when he’s your manager and when he’s your brother.”

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