Calm and collected Murphy playing his part with Waterford

GAA
Calm and collected Murphy playing his part with Waterford

By John Harrington

Nine years have passed since Waterfords annihilation at the hands of Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland Final, but the desolation he felt in its aftermath is still a tangible emotion for Eoin Murphy.

Waterford appear in their first All-Ireland Final since 08 when they play Galway on Sunday, and this time around Murphy is part of the group in his role as a team selector.

Nine years ago he was stationed at Ground Zero in the Waterford full-back line when Kilkenny flattened them with arguably the greatest performance any team has ever produced in an All-Ireland Final.

It was the best three weeks of my life followed by the worst six where I wanted the ground to open up and I didnt want to meet anyone, recalls Murphy.

I dreamed of playing in an All-Ireland final for so long as a young fella, just not that one. That one never came into my dreams. That was a nightmare.

They totally hit the ground running and we just met a storm on the day. They went for it and they just put us away.

Unfortunately, it was gone after 10 or 15 minutes. There was no way back at that stage and unfortunately, it was like dominos for the whole group you just flick them and theyre gone.

Time has been a healer as far as that 2008 All-Ireland Final is concerned.

An incident that occurred two years later gave him the perspective that in the greater scheme of things losing a game of hurling, no matter what the occasion, is a trivial enough thing.

Eoin Murphy chases Kilkenny's Eddie Brennan in the 2008 All-Ireland SHC Final.Eoin Murphy chases Kilkenny's Eddie Brennan in the 2008 All-Ireland SHC Final.

He was playing a club game with Shamrocks against Abbeyside when he received an accident blow to the head while trying to block down an opponent that left him with a fractured skull.

Had he not been wearing a helmet he has no doubts he would have been killed.

The scan is nice to see its a bit like an Easter egg cracked in at one side, says Murphy.

I was a very lucky boy. The helmet saved my life. I still have a little indentation there on the side of my temple.

If I ever lose my hair youll be able to see it. I was lucky. I was very, very lucky. Thanks to the medical personnel in Waterford and Cork. It just healed they didnt have to intervene or operate.

It was a freak accident, just one of those things. Bad timing. But at the time, it was a weird sensation. Now I know what it was there were bones breaking and there was a bit of bleeding on the brain. But thankfully everything settled down and it just healed itself.

Murphy comes across as a very calm, grounded sort of character and even when talking about a near death experience does it in a very matter of fact sort of way.

You can see why Derek McGrath thought hed be a good man to bring into his management set-up last June. Someone as even-tempered as Murphy is just the sort of sounding board youd appreciate in the heat of a championship battle when others might be losing their cool.

I suppose Im more of a deep thinker than a swashbuckling, jumping up and down kind of person, says Murphy. I dont get too excited. Maybe thats a nice balance.

Dan is the runner so hes trying to get in and out with messages. And Derek himself is in the middle of it obviously and he can get into the heat of it. Hes manager, hes head of the whole group.

He can get caught in the moment. So I like to be able to sit back and analyse the moment and he likes to come back to me and just use me as a sounding board.

But we all talk before we leave the hotel. Just nothing too serious, two or three minutes. Literally all the work is done at that stage.

What took Murphy by surprise when he agreed to come on board last June was just how much work is done behind the scenes by McGrath and his management team.

Waterford selector Eoin Murphy with team manager Derek McGrath.Waterford selector Eoin Murphy with team manager Derek McGrath.

And hes viewed first-hand how McGraths all-consuming approach to the job had created a tight bond between him and his players.

Derek is happiest when hes with the players. He loves being around the players. Be it, when they go for recovery maybe on a Monday, hell go and join them for it.

Hes happiest hanging around with them. Its kind of peer to peer, even though he is their manager at the end of the day. He listens to what they have to say, he takes their feedback on board.

I would argue that hes happier amongst his players than he is amongst us or around the county board or dealing with other stuff that he has to deal with.

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