MUNSTER scrum-half Conor Murray may have come to rugby late but he is wasting no time making his mark on the sport.
Murray, who turned 22 late last month, only started playing at the age of 13 but the former St Munchin’s student has a first professional contract to look forward to next season having graduated from the Munster Academy with flying colours, and making the most of his elevation to the first-team squad in recent months.
Murray’s first taste of Thomond Park in a senior Munster jersey was as a replacement in the victory over Australia last November and he has stayed in Tony McGahan’s Magners League squad since, with notable starts in the recent victories over Leinster and Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final opponents Brive.
Murray credits his experience in the Academy with helping him to take the step up to professional rugby.
“I joined in 2008 and this is my third year,” he said. “The Academy’s been very good. When I first came in I didn’t understand what it took in training or how to train. I remember Fogs, the fitness coach (Feargal O’Callaghan) sat me down and he said ‘you’re not really training as well as you should be’ and I wasn’t.
“After that I put a lot more effort in and learned what needed to be done and what commitment was needed. He really set me straight that day and I don’t think I’ve looked back since then. I really copped on.
“We learn so much, about eating the proper food, time-keeping, time management, which is important as most of us in the Academy are in college as well. Learning how to balance the two was tough but it helps you to be disciplined.”
As well as the good times, Murray has tasted disappointment, having been handed the number nine jersey for last weekend’s Amlin semi-final defeat, although the 22-year-old insists he will learn from it.
“It’s great that Tony has that faith in me. I’m surrounded by the big players and I’m the young one. I’m loving it and enjoying that he’s backing me to go out there and perform. Hopefully I’ve repaid him in most of the games.
“That sort of experience (against Harlequins), the disappointment, has to stand to me. It’s a big stage and the pressure you feel to get everything right, that has to be a help.
“On Saturday we let the fans down. I can’t remember what time I came off but when I came off I looked up to the stands and they were leaving and that made me feel even more down, if that was possible. We didn’t give them anything to stay for. So that should spur me on in the future.”
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