While Giovanni Trapattoni sprang teen Sean Scannell into his first squad and similarly, before him, Steve Staunton with Terry Dixon, it was the evergreen Murphy — 31 next week — in receipt of O’Neill’s golden ticket.
Eight caps were accumulated by the Waterford native up to 2008, so his subsequent protracted international drought only served to intensify doubt that his career in the Ireland jersey was consigned to history.
“I just thought that the gap between me and international football had probably gone on so long that I mightn’t get the chance again,” said the forward, scorer of his ninth goal this season on Saturday against Birmingham City.
“There were times too when I thought if I got my head down and played my club football consistently, a recall would come. Martin came to see me playing recently [against Blackpool] and, though it was a scoreless game, I was still hopeful.
“Then, I just came in from training last week, picked up my phone and saw that I had numerous missed calls and text messages saying I was in the squad. That was obviously nice.”
Far from nice was the treatment he suffered under O’Neill’s successor, Trapattoni.
A squad regular in the opening months of the Italian’s reign, Murphy was discarded without the courtesy of an explanation.
Cruel in the delivery they certainly were, at least Kevin Doyle received a text message and Kevin Kilbane a fax at being dropped by Trap claiming each were still in the manager’s plans.
“Do you know what, I was disappointed over it,” he reflects. “It did hurt me a little bit because I just thought, after being in the squad for that so many years, someone could just say, ‘Listen, you’re not in the squad.’ I would have held my hands up and said, ‘Right, fair enough’.
“But to hear nothing and my wife [Rosanne] see the squad on the television and actually tell me, ‘Oh you’re not in the Ireland squad next week’ was not nice.”
Now that he’s back in demand under the new management team, including his former Sunderland and Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane, there’s little time for the Waterford United man to waste.
“From the minute I heard I was in the squad I was aware of the fact this might be my last chance; I’m very conscious of that,” Murphy affirmed.
“If I get the nod to play [against Serbia] or come on at some stage, then obviously it’s up to me to show the manager why he’s recalled me.”
Murphy is also aware of O’Neill’s traditional preference for physical front men. Could he become the John Hartson, Emile Heskey or John Carew of the new-look Ireland team?
“I hope so,” he admits. “I think I’ve performed better as a centre-forward than I did as a left midfielder.
“When Mick McCarthy took over at Ipswich Town, I said ‘I want you to play as a striker, not in midfield’. He said I’d stay in the team if I did well and I’ve played nearly every game this season. For me, playing in that position has given me much more confidence.”
Joining him soon in the Ireland panel could be another Ipswich Town powerhouse attacker, David McGoldrick, once his eligibility is processed and injury is behind him.
“David’s got everything — vision, skilful and he’s scored 16 goals this season,” beamed Murphy about his clubmate. “It’s been a massive blow losing him to injury because he’s our main man.”
Another of the Portman Road brigade Murphy isn’t discounting for a call-up is 32-year-old Stephen Hunt.
“If he keeps playing well for Ipswich Town, then he might have a chance,” suggested Hunt’s compatriot.
“Stephen was training on his own for a while before he signed but he’s got his sharpness up back now.”
One Irish Tractor Boy comeback is plenty for this Ireland game anyway.