Murphy: 'You respect each other'
By Cian O'Connell
For Paul Murphy the Kilkenny and Tipperary rivalry is ultimately about respect. “Regardless of what happens next Sunday, you’ll know there is a respect there after it,” Murphy admits.
“There’s so many similarities between both camps in that our attitudes towards hurling are very similar. A lot of players are living on the borders as well – a few miles here or there and you could be playing for the other team so I think over the few years, regardless of whether you come out on the winning side or the losing side, the fact we’ve drawn so much out of each other and had massive matches, automatically respect comes from that. Sometimes you mightn’t have to like each other, but you respect each other and that’s the bottom line in the whole thing.”
Kilkenny’s recent past is sprinkled with All Ireland titles, 11 since 1999, but in that spell, especially during the last decade Tipperary have brought the best in the striped team. “Yeah, certainly,” Murphy acknowledges.
“It’s there for everyone to see. Even in League matches, when both sides have been trying teams, we’ve had great battles. The 10 goals that were scored up there two years ago, even the league match this year in Nowlan Park, League finals as well in Thurles or Kilkenny.
“Through the years, regardless of whether it was a Walsh Cup match or something, which I know we don’t play each other in, but if it was a real match that wasn’t as important as this, we just seem to have drawn the best out of each other and certainly in my career, one of the best matches I played in was the qualifier up in Nowlan Park.
“Again, it was a qualifier, it wasn’t a glamorous situation to be in, but the day was absolutely brilliant up there. It’s very easy to say that coming out the winning side of it, but those matches are things that do stay with you and it’s plain for everyone to see, regardless of whether you’re playing or not playing, that players are getting the best out of each other on the pitch through a real, serious rivalry.”
Murphy, who remains one of the most accomplished corner backs in the game, is delighted with how his career has progressed. “My first year was 2011 so I wasn’t thinking that the last five years have been great, I had no All-Irelands at that stage. The likes of Cillian Buckley, Joey Holden, Padraig Walsh, there’s so many lads, Conor Fogarty, Eoin Murphy, we’re all at the stage where we were there through the four in a row and all this as supporters, but we weren’t there as players.
“Realistically this is us just carrying on as ourselves. It’s not a case of what happened before. We certainly learned a lot from the lads that went before us, but it’s living year on year.
“I’m not looking back at the last few years thinking they have any sort of effect next Sunday. I know in my heart and soul they have no effect whatsoever. It’s a great privilege, the idea that I’m going for my fifth one is brilliant, but it’s thinking that this is another All-Ireland and play like it’s the first one really.”
The personnel might change, but Kilkenny just keep ploughing on defiantly. Some worried and wondered following a string of high profile retirements in 2014. Kilkenny just responded by winning last year’s All Ireland.
“When you look back on it, it was only JJ (Delaney) that stepped off the team. You had 14 players there. Even though six lads retired, but if you took six lads off the team, that’s a serious change in personnel but we had, going into 2015, 14 players who had played in the All-Ireland final and a big panel there who were involved in it and in the year.
“We brought in a bit of fresh blood as well so it was a great place to be and we had a blend of experience and also lads still massively hungry. The lads, obviously their time came to an end and they left us with great experience to bring on with us but there wasn’t such an upheaval that we were looking into a position and thinking ‘we have no-one for this position.’
“Players have just emerged and that’s just a natural process – Mick Fennelly being injured now, another player just has to step in. That’s just the way it has to be – it’s not a case that you’re going to have 15 set players for 10 years and that’s it. It doesn’t work like that. When you prepare for a situation like that, it’s the best way to really go into a Championship year.”