Some people call him the reluctant goalkeeper.
They might say that – he couldn’t possibly comment.
Truth be told, Eoin Murphy, who turns 26 today, doesn’t exactly know he got here.
But Brian Cody saw in him something he didn’t truly acknowledge himself.
All he understands is when the offer of a starting Kilkenny jersey – any starting Kilkenny jersey – came his way, he wasn’t going to turn it down.
“I played minor in goal for Kilkenny but then in the years after that, for the U21s, I was actually out the field. And when Brian and the guys approached me, they put it on the table they were looking at me as a goalkeeper and an outfield player.
“And then PJ Ryan retired and Brian and the guys approached me and said my foreseeable future was in the goals. When you are fighting for a position, you don’t mind where it is as long as you are there. As long as you are on the team, I don’t really mind.”
With 6-37, Murphy was Glenmore’s top scorer on the way to winning the All-Ireland Club junior title earlier this year. The man can play beyond a goal-line but then he was used to it from an early age although he hadn’t manned the whitewash between U14 and minor.
“I grew up in a house of six kids, five boys and a girl. We had a back garden we referred to as our pitch. And you had to take your turn in goals whether you liked it or not. When you are the fourth oldest – I was taking the brunt of it as well and was bullied into goals! I had two choices: to get hit or stop the ball. So I got used to playing in goals from that.”
At minor, it was former Kilkenny goalkeeper Michael Walsh who recognised his aptitude for the role.
“I probably wasn’t good enough for out the field,” laughs Murphy. “No, I am actually not too sure. They asked me what I thought of it and when they said there was an opportunity for a trial, I jumped straight away. I wanted to be there, I wanted to be playing.”
Under Cody, Martin Fogarty tutored him further before another ex inter-county netminder, James McGarry, came into the management team group and extended his education.
“The first year I came into it, (David) Herity was injured at the start of 2013, and I got a good run at it. He was top-class and before that, he had to bide his time with PJ Ryan and things like that. I have been lucky, but I have been working hard to try and retain it. Richie Reid is there, he has been flying in training and flying it with his club, so if I slip up at all, he will be taking my position. And you don’t want that.”
Returning to Glenmore doesn’t just feel like a change of pace as a change of mindset because of his positioning on the field. It gives him an insight into what type of ball players do and don’t want.
Murphy knows he is blessed with defenders who can handle short ball and forwards who fancy themselves in 50-50 aerial situations. But there’s an onus on him too.
“I suppose you don’t want the ball coming down with snow on it either. So you realise what type of a ball a back doesn’t like. You know what forwards like coming in front of them. You are trying to give a more favourable ball to a forward as well.
“There does come a time when you are just going to have to hit it long. There might be nothing on and you have to win your own ball. You can’t be gift wrapping the ball every single time. Every forward has to win their ball along with the backs as well.” Murphy and Joey Holden’s afternoon to forget in the league semi-final when Clare hit Kilkenny for four goals served as a sore reminder what can go wrong.
“It wasn’t the first time, it won’t be the last either. Obviously, you want to be coming out of every game keeping a clean sheet. If it doesn’t work out like that there is nothing you can do. You have to just move on to the next game.
“We were probably lucky enough, we had a club game the week after so I could maybe park it aside for a bit to concentrate on the club. That is just the way it goes. In fairness to Clare that day, they probably should have beaten us by more. We were very honest about our performance, we knew it just wasn’t good enough. We knew we had a lot of work to put in and we did put it in. I suppose as a unit, the seven and maybe the nine if you include the midfield, we have played better since. You don’t want to let your standards drop to how we played in that league semi-final.”
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