Cian Murphy ready to get back to the big time with City

His side face a top-of-the-table clash away to John Caulfield's Galway United tonight.
Cian Murphy ready to get back to the big time with City

Cian Murphy of Cork City. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Seeing John Caulfield up close tonight will remind Cian Murphy of the glory phase he entered at Cork City and reaffirm his determination to recapture those halcyon days.

The striker was a mere teenager in October 2018 when handed his league debut by Caulfield at Shamrock Rovers in a City side that were, at that stage, the Premier Division champions and FAI Cup holders.

How things have changed for the Tipperary attacker, individually and collectively.

A ripped hamstring sustained early the next season against St Patrick’s Athletic meant him observing the malaise from the sidelines, a demise that ended Caulfield’s spell and culminated in relegation by the end of 2020.

Off the field was equally traumatic as a rescue package from the late Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings staved off the threat of liquidation.

The concoction of crises was an eye-opener for the tyro but inadvertently created an opportunity of becoming the revamped side’s main striker in the First Division.

He’s grasped it, leading the line for a team grappling with Galway for automatic promotion.

Being one of the few survivors of the tumult around Turner’s Cross hardens his determination to complete the circle.

“That period was tough on the players, especially the young ones like me who don’t really know how to deal with it,” he recalls about their plummet.

“I was almost a year out through injury, didn’t play much when I got back and the side were losing games.

"My aim when signing my first professional contract in 2018 was to make a name for myself but it took another two years until I eventually got there.

"The 2017 double-winning team were a great side and, when that eventually broke up, the chance came from us to step up.” Having a manager like Colin Healy to believe him was crucial for Murphy. “Colin had previously coached me in City’s U19 team and placed his faith in me when he became senior manager at the start of last season.

“The big thing he brought into management from his playing career was driving standards.

“There’s no leeway and it keeps you on your toes. If you’re off it, he’ll be the first to let you know.” In tandem, they’ve led the Rebels’ charge. Eleven goals for Murphy last season have been followed by four more this term and he’s still only 21. The difference this year is that promotion is a precondition rather than aspiration.

“There was a feeling that we’d go straight back up last year whereas we knew internally that we weren’t exactly there,” Murphy said of the two-year plan.

“Playing for a club the size of Cork City, expectation will always be on you but we had lots of players making their way in the league for the first time.

"We added the experience of Kevin O’Connor and Ally Gilchrist from Shelbourne’s team that won the title last year and that helps the winning mentality.

"We want to start challenging for trophies again and to get the club back to where it belongs. Having a Cork club in the Premier Division is a must.” Caulfield would concur, only for his job is to ensure Galway usurp them.

Although City haven’t lost since the second game of the season against the Tribesmen, two draws against Bray and Wexford over the period Galway stitched a seven-game winning blitz together gives Caulfield’s men a two-point advantage.

A bumper crowd close to 5,000 is anticipated at Eamonn Deacy Park for a match to mark the midway point of the campaign.

"John's teams are always difficult to break down and cause you a lot of problems with their style of play,” noted Murphy about the test awaiting them.

“We’re strong defensively too and score goals, so it should be a brilliant game.” Caulfield has already begun the mind-game by declaring City as “overwhelming favourites” to claim top spot and dodge the roulette of the playoffs to engineer their route to the top-flight.

Healy is too wise and familiar with his former manager’s methods to pay any attention and has cited dealing with Galway’s tactical scuds, like throw-ins and corners, rather than verbal ones. “This is a massive game,” said the former Ireland midfielder, sentiments reflected by the predicted travelling support of 900 fans.

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