Andy and Breda Murtagh knew better this week than to be peppering their three sons with questions about their thoughts of Galway tomorrow.
They’ve learnt over the years that less is more when it comes to Connacht final week. Granted, tomorrow represents a first senior provincial decider for all three Murtagh brothers, but such has been the county’s prominence at minor and U21 level in recent years that they’ve had plenty of practice of preparing for showpiece days.
Andy will have asked how training went when the three lads ambled back in the door after Tuesday’s and Thursday’s sessions. The reply won’t have stretched far beyond ‘grand’ and so he’ll have left it at that.
There’ll have been no Spanish inquisition into who’s going well, who’s in contention for a starting berth or how the multitude coming back from injury are fixed.
Breda, on the other hand, plays her part by keeping the right food on the table and fresh socks in the gear bags.
“That is her way of contributing and she likes to contribute that way as she wouldn’t be great for the football talk,” says Roscommon captain Ciarán, the middle child in the Murtagh household.
And it’s a pretty packed household these days. Ciarán, 23, and younger brother Diarmuid, 21, are back home for the duration of the summer holidays, while eldest Brian, 26, who is a secondary school teacher in Mullingar, is also at home in Ballyleague.
“We’re at home getting the free dinners and the clothes washed for us,” jokes Ciarán.
This is the third consecutive year all three brothers are involved in the Roscommon set-up, with Brian having first joined the squad in 2012 before taking the subsequent year out to concentrate on his studies.
Ciarán and Diarmuid burst onto the scene in the spring of 2014, the latter’s 10-point haul – six from play – during the county’s All-Ireland U21 semi-final win over Cork signposting him as a real talent.
Come championship, it was a straight shootout between the two for the left corner-forward berth. Ciarán got the nod in both of their Connacht championship outings, with Diarmuid then relegating his brother to the bench for their second and third round qualifier fixtures.
A strange time in the Murtagh household?
“Honestly, we never fell out over it,” says Ciarán. “If he asked me for advice, I’ve give it to him. I was happy to see him on the team as much as I wanted to make it myself. You’d never wish him to do badly.”
Ciarán describes himself as the joker of the three, Brian the intelligent one and Diarmuid the mature head on young shoulders.
“Growing up through the years, I would always have looked to Brian because he was always on the panels before us. Diarmuid and I would have been going to his games and asking him what is was like. We definitely would have looked up to him. Now, that we’re all in our mid-twenties, we go to each other. I’d ask Diarmuid for advice and he’d ask me.”
They’re a close-knit bunch. Indeed, such is the younger pair’s relationship that they had no problem living under the one roof when Ciarán decided to return to college in September of 2014.
With a corporate law degree from NUIG already on the wall, the young Roscommon captain had a change of heart and decided to follow his brothers into the classroom.
He enrolled at Marino on Dublin’s northside and with Diarmuid starting out down the road in St Pats, the pair bunked in with fellow Roscommon footballer Ronan Daly.
The nine-months ran smoothly enough and so they said they’d give it another shot last September.
“It was just the two of us this year. We didn’t have Ronan. We were late looking for a house last summer so everything went belly up.
“We left it until the very last minute and that caused a fair bit of trouble. Eventually, we got something in Drumcondra and that tied us over.
“When you’re rushing for training in Roscommon, you can throw him a text and he’ll sort the gear for you. If he’s in a rush, I’ll help him. It’s a help too with the cooking. “We are on the same sort of diet so we know what each other is eating. Little things like that are a big help.”
Ciarán is the sole brother named on the match-day 26 for the trip to Pearse Stadium. Diarmuid, having started their opening two championship games in the inside line, was forced off early in the second-half of the Leitrim quarter-final with a hamstring injury and whilst he resumed full training this week, Sunday’s game would appear to have come too soon. Brian, too, is nursing a hamstring knock. Not that their omissions have done much in helping the flow of conversation around the house.
“The three of us always go training together and while it would be total football on the way to training and total football on the way back, you want to switch off when you get home. Otherwise, you’ll wear yourself out thinking and talking about the next game.
“If we’re after losing a game, we would discuss it at the kitchen table for a while just to get it out of the system. There is less chat if we win. Like, at the breakfast on the Monday morning after the Sligo game, there was no mention of it. It was discussed on Sunday night before you go out with the lads. And then it is parked.
“We wouldn’t dwell on it for too long and the parents don’t bother discussing it because they know better. When we were minor and U21, you’d be peppered with questions coming in the door. Nowadays, they know they are not going to get anything out of us, so they don’t even bother asking. My father would be a big influence on our careers but he would know not to ask questions. There’s no probing.” The three were involved in club championship with their native St Faithleach’s on the Saturday evening Galway shocked Mayo in Castlebar. Michael Glaveys inflicted a first defeat of the summer at Strokestown and Ciarán was so frustrated with the result that he never thought to scroll though his phone to see who they’d be playing on July 10.
“It was only when I was leaving the ground that someone said it to me. I didn’t pay much notice as I wasn’t one bit pleased with how our own game had just gone.” He added: “I would have been there in 2013 when Roscommon got a bit of a clipping off Galway. It would be more underage games I’d remember involving either myself, Brian or Diarmuid. They would have been all very close encounters.”
From the last Roscommon side to reach this stage in 2011, Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell’s starting team for Salthill shows just five survivors – Sean McDermott, Sean Purcell, David Keenan, Conor Devaney and Cathal Cregg.
Murtagh is among the 10 newcomers and is privileged to be captain.
“They rotated the captaincy during the league and the day below in Cork was my first time to get it. That was a nice start. They told me then after the win up in Donegal that they were really considering me.”
The first people he told were Brian and Diarmuid. “They told me to just keep playing football and to take this in my stride.”
So far, so good.
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