Paul Murphy isn’t buying any of this devalued provincial championship stuff you’re selling. The Kerry star opens with the Munster final as a “great occasion” and kicks on from there.
“A Munster final, particularly in Killarney, they seem to get bigger crowds, a lot of the time brilliant weather. They’re great occasions to be involved in.
“With regards to the rivalry at home it’s a fairly intense rivalry to be involved in, but at the same time people aren’t falling out over it. People are very into their football out there, but after the game they’ll probably shake hands with their neighbours and they’ll move on. [There are] families where you might have one supporting Kerry and some people supporting Cork out there.”
Sharply drawn positions, then. When it comes to Murphy’s place on the field it’s not so clear.
“No, the lines between half-forward and half-back they’re blurring all the time. There are players throughout the country who could be named at 12 one day, 5 the next day.
“To me it doesn’t matter where you play as long as you’d know before the game or the days coming up to it where you’d be playing and you could have mentally prepared for it, but at the same time even within a game if you’re told to move, to switch positions, you’ll react.
“At the end of the day it’s a game of football, it’s what you’ve been practising to do all the time. I probably consider myself more naturally a half-back, in terms that I played most of my football there underage, but I’d also be comfortable in the half-forward line too.
"If you’re asking me what my favourite position is that could change from one month to the next. Centre-forward is a lovely position on the right day.”
Then there are “horrible days”, as Murphy puts it: “There’s an element of freedom [to playing up front], but the way the game has gone you could be playing centre-forward and you could spend more time chasing a fella back and you could have a horrible day.
“There’s days you could be playing wing-forward and you could kill yourself all day trying to get on ball and it just wouldn’t fall for you, it would just pass you by.
“Man-marking is still there, but positions are becoming more and more blurred. Rather than having full-back line players you’d nearly have defined man-markers now. That’s still a huge part of the game, but the positions are changing the whole time.”
Murphy has also learned to save his energy for game day.
“It sounds a bit ignorant, but you kind of try to avoid papers, internet, people! You have to. Without being rude or anything like that, but you have to have a certain amount of tunnel vision.
“You have to be ruthless, you have to block out people, block out media all that.”
Having said that, he’s well aware that Cork are rank outsiders this weekend.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a no-win,” says Murphy. “There’s a huge carrot there for us.
“It’s a Munster final so you’ve a Munster Championship. You have keeping our winning run going in Killarney. You’re avoiding a back door, which this year more than any other years in the past there’s a lot of danger in the back door.
“I would agree with you in the sense Cork are arriving with the pressure off. They’re coming into it in a nice position. As you said they’re probably being written off a bit, so they can cut loose basically, the pressure is off them to a certain degree. We’re in our own patch so we’re happy enough with that.”
Kerry have had their own taste of being underdogs lately, with some people remarking on the intensity of their celebrations following that league final win over Dublin.
Murphy says: “I don’t think our celebrations were that wild, to be honest. you don’t need me to tell you that we’ve suffered at Dublin’s hands so it was a relief, really.
“We were fully convinced that we were going to beat them. Any time we played them we’ve believed we’ve been capable of beating them and I think we have been capable of beating them on those occasions and just haven’t finished them off — and that’s a tribute to Dublin, really.”
But this weekend is about the neighbours. “It’s still a fierce rivalry, but possibly the thing with the Kerry-Cork rivalry is that the players have changed a lot on both panels in the last three or four years, whereas when they were playing in the noughties, you had very similar panels of players going toe to toe.
“You could be playing them in the league, championship and even All-Ireland. Familiarity breeds contempt and it fed into the rivalry a bit and, like you said, we haven’t played Cork since 2016, but I don’t think the rivalry diminished any bit.
“It will be [a physical contest] and it will be keenly fought, but I think they always have been like that. Maybe it’s just that we haven’t played them in the last 12 months.
“New personal rivalries could develop. I’m sure when the ball is thrown in the next day it’ll be like nothing has changed.”
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