In Bishopstown, he coached Brian Cuthbert as a boy when the club reached the 1988 Féile na nGael hurling final, losing out to Wolfe Tones. “That was my first experiencing of coaching,”says Kildare U21 boss Murphy. “Yeah, I’ve known Brian all my life.”
When they were minor managers of Kildare and Cork, the pair would bounce ideas off one another. Cuthbert made the trip to Navan in April to support his club-mate as his Kildare U21s bravely went down to Dublin in the Leinster final. Murphy returned the favour in Killarney last Saturday when he and his young son were drenched on the Michael O’Connor Terrace, their misery compounded when right in front of them Colm Cooper’s quick free turned the game in Kerry’s favour.
There’s no radio silence this week but it’s restricted to the odd text or two. “No more than the lads in Kildare texting them to wish them the best. All you can hope for is both teams to go out and perform.”
Murphy doesn’t regard himself as conflicted but his daughter is: she considered opting for a split Cork-Kildare jersey today. “I always have a joke with the lads that if they were any good at hurling I’d be bringing them down to Cork! They love Cork as well. They’re down there every couple of months. Bishopstown is home but Bere Island and Upton would be the roots of the family.”
But there is no suspicion of the Clane clubman acting as a Rebel agent. “If Cork were playing any other team I’d be roaring for Cork. I wish Brian the best of luck but an awful lot of the lads who are lining up for Kildare on Saturday I worked with at underage. I’ve had such an involvement with them I’d be hoping they do it. It would be very disingenuous of me to be on one hand preaching to them and then turn around and say something else.
“I’m nailing my colours to the mast and hoping Kildare do it. Kildare has been very good to me and I’ve had great enjoyment seeing all of them develop. The big dream now would be see them go and fulfil their potential because I believe that in the next 10 years Kildare need to be challenging for All-Ireland honours with the quality that is coming through.”
Murphy almost balks of being mentioned in the same breath as Larry Tompkins and Shea Fahy but where they went down to the country he went up. Work with Dawn Farm Foods (Barry Coffey was an old colleague of his) brought him to Naas and he is still with the company working as their European business development manager. Before the economic downturn, the former underage dual player had considered returning to Cork and was told by his employer it was possible. However, when things took a turn for the worse he chose to stay. Remembered fondly as the super sub whose goal ended Kildare’s 42-year wait for the Delaney Cup in 1998, Murphy’s efforts with Kildare underage football have endeared him further with Lilywhite supporters. Before taking the U21 role last August for a three-year term, he had been minor manager for five years, winning Leinster in 2013, and was a senior selector with Padraig Nolan back in 2007.
His time working with young players taught him invaluable lessons about the pressures they now find themselves under because of social media. Last month, he hit out at the“nameless warriors” putting comments up about Kildare players on websites. The same gutter criticism has been directed at Cork too.
“It’s so easy to take shots at fellas on the internet. I’ve no problem if somebody can up to me and said something face-to-face but when it’s been done over the internet at players I think it’s unfair.
“Players nowadays have far bigger challenges than we did with social media. We never had that. The paper was where it was at and if you weren’t mentioned in the paper then that was that.
“You’d always be conscious of a fella who could be more vulnerable and might take something the wrong way. Outside the football sphere, you see the impact social media can have on young people. We don’t need that in sport when fellas are doing it for the love of it and don’t need to be told when they haven’t performed.”
Like Cuthbert, Murphy would subscribe to an expressive brand of football but appreciates it’s not always possible. He saw the results of Cork’s triple sweeper method in the drawn game against Kerry. “I was delighted for Brian from a performance point of view after what he had endured,” he says of the brickbats that were aimed Cuthbert’s way.
Although, he admits he’s exasperated at times when he hears of football being turned on its head by rearguard tactics. “This whole thing about defensive systems — Pat Spillane was playing a defensive role for Kerry 30 years ago and there wasn’t a word said about it. I’m not sold on this idea of the game evolving with defensive systems.”
So who needs to win more in Thurles this evening? The prospect of facing Dublin in tomorrow week’s All-Ireland quarter-final, Murphy says, is more a nugget than a nuisance for Kildare and Cork.
“Both teams have played Dublin in big games this year and have learned harsh lessons. From a coaching perspective, you’re looking to see who has learned more from those trimmings. Both teams need the opportunity to see if they have taken from those defeats in the intervening period. Kildare would love another crack at Dublin to see if they’ve closed the gap and I’m sure Cork are the same as the league final wasn’t a true reflection of their form.
“Maybe Cork are slightly more physically advanced than Kildare and Division 1 teams have been beating Division 2 teams but I fancy Kildare to give a good account of themselves.”