‘Sometimes you mightn’t have to like each other but you respect each other’

Paul Murphy at a Kilkenny press night in Langtons Hotel, where he said Tipp bring out the optimum in Kilkenny.

He’s more of an iceman on the field but off it Paul Murphy would be closer to an icebreaker.

After Michael Fennelly posted on Twitter a post- operation photograph of his achilles and asked his followers for book, box-set and movie suggestions, Murphy replied: “the film Troy is a good watch. Brad Pitt plays this fella called Achille... Actually don’t watch that movie!”

Murphy is the type of athlete who seems to have found the balance between business and banter.

He tells of how he’s been the brunt of jokes in training after his late point attempt went wide in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford. “Running around at training a few nights later and you’d take a bit of a pot shot and there was sneering then straight away. I think I’ll get it for about six months or so but as soon as they mess up, I’ll hop off them straight away!”

But don’t for a second consider Murphy’s too lighthearted. Earlier in the year, he said if he were one of the unused substitutes in the Kilkenny panel he would take offence at the perception the Cats have a poor bench. Liam Blanchfield and Mark Bergin gave their response in the replay against Waterford.

“Definitely. I can guarantee there’s lads who’ve joined the Tipperary panel or the Galway panel and they feel that’s an achievement in itself. When you have a general consensus people are saying ‘ah ye’re not great, the panel isn’t great’…the likes of Liam Blanchfield and these lads, he’s 19 years old and Mark Bergin, who was part of the panel a few years ago, let go for a while and came back in, he started as well. They’re not easy things to do and when they got the start, they were saying ‘this is an All-Ireland semi-final in Thurles, it’s a great opportunity.’

“Maybe it wasn’t their main focus but you can guarantee it was in the back of their minds that maybe lads don’t rate them and they think they’re going to be pushed over.”

Brian Cody intimated the drawn game was one of the best things that could have happened to Kilkenny as it allowed them to recalibrate.

The Division 1 quarter-final loss to Clare was another opportunity to learn.

A shoulder injury kept Murphy, 27, out of that game — he spent the day in Glendalough with his girlfriend instead — but he knew there would be a response.

“I didn’t go to the match because I was injured. I didn’t even watch the match because I was so disappointed not being part of it. It’s very hard to watch a match when you’re not part of it. Some players can watch it and find there’s no trouble watching it but I actually just followed it on Twitter because I couldn’t deal with the whole atmosphere of not being part of it. I was happy enough afterwards because I said to myself if that was coming, I’m happy it happened then as opposed to an All-Ireland semi-final or Leinster final or All-Ireland final...

“If we needed a kick in the arse, well let that be the kick in the arse. It was disappointing, obviously. If you had it back now you’d have wanted to win the match as you want to do with any match. Lads were disappointed with their own performances that day but sometimes you need these reality checks to sort yourself out.”

Tipperary, Murphy says, bring out the optimum in Kilkenny. The mutual admiration between the groups is obvious. “Sometimes you mightn’t have to like each other but you respect each other and that’s the bottom line in the whole thing. We’ve had serious battles over the years and tempers have frayed sometimes but the one thing that has underlined the whole thing is there is a respect there on both sides.

“We just seem to have drawn the best out of each other and certainly in my career, one of the best matches I played in was the qualifier up in Nowlan Park. Again, it was a qualifier, it wasn’t a glamorous situation to be in but the day was absolutely brilliant. It’s very easy to say that coming out the winning side of it but those matches are things that do stay with you and it’s plain for everyone to see, regardless of whether you’re playing or not playing, that players are getting the best out of each other on the pitch through a real, serious rivalry.”

Don’t miss the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast. Daithi Regan, Tadhg O’Connor, Eddie Keher, Eamonn Murphy and PM O’Sullivan join Peter McNamara to discuss the Kilkenny v Tipperary All-Ireland hurling final.


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