The defender retired from the League of Ireland’s Friday night lights in December, but will return for another encore at Tallaght Stadium this evening, on a cup giant-killing mission against his former club, Shamrock Rovers, with long-odds outsiders Midleton.
“With the draw we’ve got, you couldn’t make it up,” says Murray, who wasn’t considering the Magpies’ FAI Cup entry when he signed four months ago. “The only one better it could’ve been was if we had it at home, or if we’d drawn Cork City, but I’m looking forward to the game. I’ve always liked playing in Tallaght – I have some good memories from there.”
Murray is one of two former Cork City captains in an otherwise young Midleton team, lining out alongside Kevin Murray, who is also the assistant manager to Stephen Mulcahy (another former defensive colleague from Murray’s City days).
“When I decided to step away from the League of Ireland, I was humming and hawing about whether I wanted to carry on playing. I spoke to a few people in a few different clubs around Cork and I didn’t make any decision,” says Murray.
“After the New Year, when I spoke to Stephen and Kev Murray about coming to Midleton, it made sense really. I live in Carrigtwohill, so it’s only down the road. The biggest thing for me was I just wanted to enjoy it. If I wasn’t enjoying it, I don’t think I’d have carried on playing, but I’m enjoying it a lot and that’s been the best part.”
As a club, Midleton have giant-killing in their DNA since knocking out holders Bray Wanderers in 1991. That same year, current club chairman and founding member Michael Kirby hung up his boots after over 700 appearances in black and white stripes.
“That was a glorious time,” recalls Kirby of the FAI Cup shock played in front of 4,000 locals at Knockgriffin.
“It was just a huge sense of excitement. The support we received from the town and the attendance we had here was extraordinary. There was a huge build up, with the glamour of the FAI Cup coming the day before on display for everyone to see.
“It was really exciting for the fans and particularly for the players who were playing on that day. It’s a fantastic memory.”
That memory means those who support the Munster Senior League First Division side continue to dream big.
“You never think about it too much but you always dream that this could happen,” says Kirby.
“We had our dream back then and it came true. And lots of things have come true for us over the years, in the way we worked hard to achieve things.
“A lot of the success goes down to the fantastic spirit of the people involved in running the club and the coaches, with the amount of effort they put in. A couple of years ago that proved itself when we won the National Club of the Year, which was a tremendous honour for everyone working in Midleton FC.”
Kirby has been chairman since 1988 and even on his day off this week, he was to be found around Knockgriffin Park, where an upgraded all-weather facility is due to open.
They’re also the only club outside of Dublin to start frame football, a new and unique version of football for disabled people who use walking frames.
In Kirby’s own words, “there’s a lot happening.” On Sunday, Shamrock Rovers manager Pat Fenlon travelled to Fermoy to watch Midleton hammer the hosts 7-0.
Murray, who missed Rovers’ final appearance in 2010 through injury, knows how often their 29-year FAI Cup drought is mentioned: “Sooner rather than later they need to win it so everybody can stop talking about it.”
The bookies consider a 10-0 Rovers win more likely than a Midleton victory, but that absence of expectation just allows Murray to enjoy his Friday.
“There’s no-one really expecting too much of us so we can go and enjoy it, do ourselves justice and try and get something out of it as best we can.”