Paul Murphy is not shy of a Munster medal. It’s his Celtic Cross collection that concerns him.
Now halfway through his fifth season with the Kerry footballers, the raiding Rathmore half-back has four Munster SFC medals in the back pocket. The priority is to swell that haul tomorrow evening, but it’s not what his 2018 season is geared towards.
Murphy enjoyed a dream debut season with the Kingdom back in 2014, starting every league and championship fixture en-route to the county’s 37th Sam Maguire success. He also became the fourth Rathmore footballer — Ger Crowley (1969), Aidan O’Mahony (2006), Tom O’Sullivan (2009) — to turn in a man- of-the-match All-Ireland final performance and was rewarded with an All-Star for such.
September success stories have since dried up and the 26-year-old is well aware that an All-Ireland medal tally of one simply doesn’t cut it in Kerry.
“There is [that feeling of wanting more than one medal]. There is for me anyway,” said the Kerry Group accountant.
“You want more than one. In a county like Kerry, one doesn’t really feature. There are guys with eight there walking around. There’s one inside in training [Mikey Sheehy], so one doesn’t really register. It’s a good pressure. It’s pressure you put on yourself, it doesn’t become suffocating, but, ultimately, it’s where you want to get to.
“All of us want to be adding to what we have and for the new lads especially, lads who’ve had success at minor level, they want to be getting the big one, as well.”
A decent sprinkling of those youngsters have yet to get their hands on a Munster medal either, including Micheál Burns and David Clifford. Mind you, the figure is far higher on the Cork side.
From the starting team put out by Ronan McCarthy on the evening of their semi-final win over Tipperary, only Aidan Walsh, Colm O’Neill, and Mark Collins featured during the 2012 provincial final triumph over Clare — it is also six years since Cork last overcame Kerry in the summertime.
Murphy has never lost a senior championship fixture to the Rebels. That’s not to say the rivalry has faded.
“Kerry have a lot of new players, Cork had a good win against Tipp. It’s a new Páirc Uí Chaoimh — I was ‘dragged’ down there to the Ed Sheeran concert a couple of weeks ago, it looks very impressive. There’s a load of factors like that so I think the interest will be very big in it. I wouldn’t say we were shocked to see the result of Cork’s semi-final, maybe the margin would have, because Tipp were All-Ireland semi-finalists two years ago. It’s a big win for Cork and I’m sure they’ll get good confidence out of it.
“They seem to have a settled team compared to other years. They have a lot of players who have really come on in the last couple of years. Luke Connolly had a brilliant campaign with Nemo, he seems to have taken that form into Cork’s Munster championship campaign, so we’d always expect the best from Cork. They seem to have brought their very best to the Munster championship this year.”
Aside from the 2015 Munster final replay in Killarney, this will be Murphy’s first time playing a provincial decider on a Saturday evening. Such fixtures are commonplace during the league and his preference is for more of the same during the championship.
“It affects work on a Friday, but fellas would have to take off work on the Friday before a Sunday game anyway so it’s not a huge deal.
“In a lot of ways, I would [prefer to have Sunday off], particularly at club level. I enjoy having a Saturday game because you have Sunday to recover. With a county game, you might have the Monday booked off work anyway so you have the Monday to recover, but yeah I nearly would prefer the Saturday night game, to be honest.”
Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s defence, much maligned during the league, received no examination during their Munster semi-final rout of Clare. The Kerry rearguard held Clare to five points from play and while Cork will pose an altogether stiffer challenge, Murphy was pleased with their discipline last time out.
“ I thought defensively we were much better against Clare. The free-count is down and what we’re really working on is tackling without fouling.
“In previous games, we made it too easy by giving away scorable frees. It is something we’ve made progress on.”
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