Eoin Murphy picked up his first All Star last year, but the Kilkenny goalkeeper says the regret of losing the All-Ireland final overshadowed the award.
“It was nice to be recognised by other players or by the selection committee, but I’d still swap the All Star for another All-Ireland medal,” he said.
The match-winning save against Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final replay probably clinched the award, when Murphy hauled down Pauric Mahony’s late, late free: “I didn’t really think about it, I just knew when it was halfway through the air that I was going to be in a position where I could make a play on it.
“I still sort of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn’t feel comfortable with it, I was going to pull out of it. You couldn’t take the chance.
“I just timed the jump just about right and if it was any higher, I’m not that tall so I wouldn’t have got to it.
“Because there were so many players in and around the box as well you couldn’t take the chance of taking it down with your hurl — look, that’s the way it goes. It fell for us that day and it didn’t a couple of weeks later.”
Murphy acknowledges how goalkeeping standards have risen, when a save like that is expected: “Exactly, a couple of years ago Brendan Cummins was doing that for fun so there was never anything about it. He probably did it two or three times in a game.
“Goalkeeping, in general, has evolved. It’s probably changed completely from where you’re in your six-yard box. You’re probably playing a bit more. Like Davy Fitz, he probably played a bit on the 14 and 21 and then Dónal Óg with the likes of his puck-outs — then Brendan Cummins and Damien Fitzhenry with their shot-stopping ability. It has come on leaps and bounds.”
After the highs of that evening in Thurles, Kilkenny endured the low of defeat in the All-Ireland final. Is the year a write off if they don’t win the big prize?
“I think so. If you approach whoever maybe doesn’t have a provincial medal and you say: ‘What’s your preference, a provincial or an All-Ireland?’ I’m sure everyone will take an All-Ireland.
“If it means you have to win Munster to win an All-Ireland or Leinster or whatever it is, look, we just want to win every game, starting with this Sunday against Waterford and whatever games are after that.”
Murphy stayed up last weekend for the Super Bowl: He’s an admirer of the Patriots’ winning quarterback, veteran Tom Brady. “If you take the NFL outside of quarterback, you don’t see too many positions where you’re playing into 33 or 34 with the exception of James Harrison for the Steelers, who’s 37 and still playing linebacker.
“In fairness to Brady, he doesn’t do too much running, I know he got bashed around. It’s probably the impact of running, at the end of the day their job is to not get hit. Hopefully I’ll be paying for another 13 years to get to 39. He’s being considered for another three- or four-year extension which will take him into 43 or 44.
“The likes of tennis now with Roger Federer, he’s still at the top of his game, winning an Open recently, but you’re not getting that impact of someone running full force at you, so that’s where they’re probably able to play into their mid-30s a little easier.”
Murphy makes the comparison between a hurling ‘keeper and Brady’s line of work: “You see Dónal Óg was like the quarterback for Cork for a good few years using the short puck-out systems and the possession game.
“But it all depends on what sort of game-plan you play and how teams set up against you. I touched on it last year, if teams are playing a two-man full-forward line or whatever, it’s a lot easier to pick out short puck-outs then.
“If they’re playing man on man and they’re confident in their own ability of taking a ball higher in the air or taking the physical game to whatever team they’re playing, then you have to go long, so it all depends on what opposition you’re playing.”
Tomorrow it’s Waterford. Murphy will prepare as usual with selector James McGarry, himself a former Kilkenny number one,
“We put in a savage amount of work, we’re out a good hour before training doing goalkeeping drills. He played there for years for Kilkenny and I don’t think he ever got the recognition he deserved.
“His knowledge of the position and where you should be and what you should be doing in different scenarios, he’s been a massive help to me and Richie (Reid, sub ‘keeper). The drills he puts us though in training puts us in a position to make plays.”
There are new faces at training, including his own brother Alan. “Coming up and down in the car he’d be bugging the life out of me, the two of us would be beating the heads off each other at home so we just have to be bit civilised when we come in here.”
But the appetite remains.
“Every year is the same. You reset once you come back in January. After Christmas is when it really kicks in, you can do as much gym sessions as you like but once it turns to a new calendar year you sort of get the jitters back again.
“There’s a lot of new guys in among the panel that got runs in the Walsh Cup and I’m sure they’ll get runs in the league as well, it’s a big couple of weeks ahead because after the third or fourth round the panel is reviewed.
“You just want to put yourself in a position where you’ll be picked on the panel and then after that put yourself in a position where you’ll be picked on the team.”
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