It was not the easiest parting of ways between Munster and centre Johne Murphy. But 12 months on, there is no sign of animosity.
Murphy yesterday hailed his old side’s positive start to the Guinness PRO12 campaign and sung the praises of Darren Sweetnam, who is poised to take up one of the positions filled by Murphy in 91 appearances for the province between 2010 and 2015.
The former Wolfhounds and Emerging Ireland player believes the manner of that opening weekend win over Scarlets will be huge fillip for Rassie Erasmus’ new setup.
“I think winning on the basis of a great defensive display always feels a small bit better than off a great attacking effort, it brings guys closer together, brings a small bit extra,” said Murphy.
And he figures former Cork hurler Sweetnam is now ready to fulfil his rich potential. “He is a footballer, an all-round good sportsman. He’s well able, not shy of the big day, he’s a very big prospect. His work over the last couple of years was all about probably core skills and understanding of the game which he seems to have in abundance already, after only giving rugby probably a real good go for the last 18 months.”
Murphy now heads up coaching company rugbycamps.ie and is player/coach of Naas RFC, looking forward to life in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League after helping the club to promotion last year. At 31, life has moved on.
At yesterday’s official launch of the AIL season at the Aviva Stadium, Murphy was one of those outside the top flight rolled out to extol the virtues of the club game. He was enthusiastic on that front and optimistic that Naas will do the town and Kildare proud in the coming months,
Murphy knows he will have to use all of his experience as a professional to guide the club among stronger company.
“It’s a balancing act for us, now that we are up among the top 20 teams in the country. We want to do as well as possible but we must continue to have that club/community feel about it.”
Though he admits to still working out the tricky balance between playing and coaching. “I suppose I had a watershed moment down in Cashel last season, we got beaten and I was very frustrated afterwards. I needed to find that balance between coaching and playing and not trying to coach too much on the pitch. There’s still a bit to go, but I’m getting that balance right.”
Murphy will link up again with Fionn Carr, who has just parted ways with Connacht. “He is very much in a similar position to where I was last year. He is going to be very good for us having played at a level the majority of the team haven’t experienced before.”
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