Deirdre Murphy tackles concussion issue

After graduating from college and stepping out into the big, bad world, Dublin’s Deirdre Murphy opted to take up a role in tackling one of modern sport’s most serious concerns.

Deirdre Murphy tackles concussion issue

Concussion was, for a time, if not quite a taboo topic in Gaelic games, but certainly one that was not afforded the attention it deserved. Gradually, that appears to be changing, but working at the frontline, 22-year-old Murphy recognises the need for awareness to be spread among players and coaches.

The St Brigid’s clubwoman has for the past two months been working for Headway, a specialist brain-injury rehabilitation service, shadowing a psychologist since finishing her degree in DCU.

As recently as last year, a survey of 1,000 Irish people commissioned by Headway revealed that only 16% of respondents “feel equipped with the knowledge of how to manage a concussion”, but Murphy believes awareness is slowly building among players in Gaelic games.

“It’s definitely improving. You can see in clubs all around the country that they have [Concussion Aware] posters up, ‘If in Doubt, Sit it Out’, and the signs and symptoms of concussion,” explained Murphy. “The return-to-play protocol is starting to be enforced, it’s probably not at the best it can be at the moment, but it’s improving and I think player safety should always be of paramount importance. That’s starting to come about.”

Heading into Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Mayo, the Dublin defender points out that players are generally not the best person to assess themselves following a heavy knock, although she admits her work has not dramatically altered her outlook on her own tackling.

“A little bit,” said Murphy. “I suppose when you see the vulnerability of people, you can become more aware of it but it doesn’t necessarily cross my mind when I’m going in for a tackle. It wouldn’t stop me, but I do [recognise it], I suppose.

“I think it’s great that there’s more awareness about concussion and people are getting better knowledge about it and being more cautious about it, which I think is really important and I’m definitely seeing that in work as well – the real importance of it and the benefit of it.

“Even referees are taking it more seriously, so that’s good… but I think it can be difficult in the heat of the moment if you ask a player if they’re all right, they’re going to say they’re all right and they’re grand and they want to stay on the pitch. Sometimes that message needs to come from the sideline to put player safety first,” adds the defender, who will aim to regain a starting place for this weekend’s decider having featured as a substitute in Dublin’s semi-final win over Kerry.

“We had a solid performance, but there’s always room for improvement and that’s what we’ve been trying to focus in on over the past few weeks,” said Murphy, who believes Dublin have learned from their final losses to Cork over the last three years.

“It’s always tough to lose an All-Ireland final. It’s difficult and it takes time to deal with it and move on, but we use it as a driving force,” said the 22-year-old. “Personally, I take that hurt and try to do better and be a better play from it.”

Murphy was full-back for Dublin in their heartbreaking one-point final loss to Cork last year when a first-half score from Dublin’s Carla Rowe was waved wide, while HawkEye was not in use for the game. The Ladies Gaelic Football Association has since introduced video replays to assess scoring efforts at televised games, while Hawk-Eye will be utilised this weekend at Croke Park.

“I think it’s great that it’s been introduced and particularly since we’ve seen it earlier on in the championship, it’s a huge improvement in the game,” said Murphy.

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