Michael Murphy: 'I'm going over there to get stuck in'
By John Harrington
Donegal footballer Michael Murphy has arguably been handed the ‘Toughest Trade’ of any yet GAA star by agreeing to take part in the latest series of the AIB documentary.
Murphy will travel to Clermont Auvergne rugby club shortly to train with the Top 14 side, and knows what he’s letting himself in for.
The Top 14 is the most physical rugby competition in the world where brutal hits are routine, and Murphy expects to be throw in the deep end rather than the kiddies pool.
“I'd imagine it's fairly full on,” he says. “We're going over expecting to get stuck into games, or get stuck into game scenarios.
“I don't know what the teams do on a week to week basis. I think they'll possibly have a game the next couple of weekends so I'd imagine you'd be doing what they're doing throughout the whole week so I'd imagine that'll ramp up as the week progresses and there'll be a bit of physicality involved and that's part of the whole experience.
“You want to be able to learn about the handling, the kicking, the technical side of things and obviously the physical side of things, if someone comes running at you that's a hell of a lot bigger than what you'd see on a Gaelic field.”
Murphy might be one of the most impressive specimens in inter-county gaelic football, but he’ll be dwarved by the rugby players he comes up against in France.
His kicking and handling ability should ensure he has a natural flair for many of the skills of the game, but he admits he’ll have a lot to learn when it comes to tackling.
“I did a bit in Australia the time with the compromise rules. I don't know if it's a similar tackle, it's probably a lot more technical than that tackle was.
“That tackle was just you get the player down in any way possible. I'm sure there could be a couple of crossovers there but, again, that's the bit of the apprehension I have with it.
“It looks physical but I'd say it's a hell of a lot more technical than it actually looks so that's going to be one of the challenges and anything in and around a ruck is going to be one of the main challenges over the course of the week so, no, I don't really know much about it.”
The thought of Murphy putting his body in the way of man-mountain rugby players will surely terrify a lot of Donegal supporters.
But the prospect of being injured in France is not something he’s not unduly worried about.
“Obviously it’s something that’s going to be thrown at us, the possibility of getting injured for something,” he says. “But, come here, you could just as easily get injured at a training session back home as you would at anything else.
“I certainly won’t be going into it like that. I will be going into it to try and get as much out of the week as possible, whatever is in store for me, to get into it, learn as much, and really challenge myself.
“I'll be back in sufficient time for the first national league game. I have done a hell of a lot of training so far this year and being away for five or six days isn’t going to affect things too much.
“I’ll be back with 10 days to go before the start of the national league and as I say, it’s the right time of year, everything suits, everything fits and that was a big factor in the decision to go and do it.”
Murphy has no experience of playing rugby, so has no preference for what position on the pitch he’d like to play in when he gets out to Clermont.
“Not a clue, hopefully somewhere not in the front row anyway! You would think somewhere along the backs, I would think anyway, where that would be, obviously the challenge of being able to hold and kick an oval ball is going to be something to get used to. The challenge is set out there and I will go for it and try to nail it anyway.”
Murphy might already have experienced professional sport with an oval ball had he chosen to pursue the option of a career in Australian Rules Football in his youth.
Geelong expressed an interest in signing him, but in the end the prospect of leaving home just didn’t appeal to Murphy.
“Definitely there was opportunities there to go forward and go at it,” he says.
“I wouldn't have hacked I don't think so. There were some times I'd say to myself, I would love to be out in a professional environment and that was probably my opportunity to go and do that. To live in Australia, I wouldn't have been cut out for it, not a hope.
“I just would have missed home too much! I know myself. I'm quite honest, that time and it still is, I just want to play for Donegal. I want to play for as many years as I can with my county and with my club.
“That was my real big desire. Yes, being a professional and waking up in the morning and trying to get your body in the best possible shape, there was that desire to go and live a professional lifestyle, but what do you really want to do in a sporting context? You want to play with your club and you want to play with your county and win things with both. That's the way it has been.”