Fáilte chuig gaa.ie - suíomh oifigiúil CLG


Stephen Molumphy enjoying Kerry role

Kerry senior hurling tam manager Stephen Molumphy. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Kerry senior hurling tam manager Stephen Molumphy. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

By Cian O’Connell

It is a busy time between training and matches, but Stephen Molumphy wouldn’t have it any other way. That is the beauty of Championship.

The Kerry senior hurling manager is thoroughly enjoying operating at senior inter-county level in the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Another vital encounter beckons for Kerry in that competition against Offaly at Glenisk O’Connor Park on Sunday.

Ultimately, Molumphy is hugely encouraged about the spirited way his young panel has dealt with setbacks and injuries throughout the campaign. “To be honest I'm delighted how the players have rallied and how they've performed,” Molumphy responds.

“We've had a huge transition, 14 new players in, it is incredible. I've said it before, it is my third year, and the third different team, but the talent base in Kerry is exceptional.”

Significant potential exists according to Molumphy. “My biggest thing is that they just need to back themselves more, they have the skill,” he adds.

“Obviously, football is number one, and it is always going to be that way, but it is a great sign to see the amount of players they have, the skill level they have. So, I'm delighted.

“Shane Conway is out for the entire year, and you just have to look at how well they have performed. I'm delighted with the new players - Kyle O'Connor is exceptional, I think he is an All-Star in the making, Eric Leen, Evan Murphy, young fellas.

“I think the average age of the team is 23, we are delighted. The future is very bright. Even where they are going now, we are looking forward to the future.”

Ultimately, it means Molumphy is optimistic because he senses that this team can develop further in the coming weeks, months, and years. “Exactly, I think they have matured a lot,” Molumphy replies instantly.

“You keep talking about the culture. I'm delighted where the culture is, and they have taken ownership of that and the cliché that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Even in the last couple of weeks, they have really taken ownership of the team. They are incredibly mature, there is a solid base there.

“They only accept the highest standards of themselves; accountability is the biggest thing. It is the main thing we have down below and it is very hard to change, which is great. They are accountable, they call each other out on the small things.

Stephen Molumph's Kerry face Offaly in a crucial Joe McDonagh Cup encounter on Sunday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Stephen Molumph's Kerry face Offaly in a crucial Joe McDonagh Cup encounter on Sunday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

“You can see in our performances, the attitude is excellent. They give their lives out on the pitch, they give it 45 or 50 minutes, and off they come, then our finishers come in to do the job. We are in a good place, but it is all up for grabs in the next game.”

That is the nature of the Joe McDonagh Cup. Kerry commenced with a couple of victories before losing to an in form Laois outfit. The Offaly fixture is now loaded with significance. “I've said it before, it is actually more ruthless than Munster; in Munster you've five teams, three get out, two into the final, and one gets out,” Molumphy remarks.

“In the Joe McDonagh you've six teams, only two get out, it is more ruthless. There is no semi-final. It always comes down to the second last or last match. It is even more competitive this year because you've three big guns - Laois, Offaly, and Westmeath. They are Tier One teams, who have been up and down.

“All three of them, their main ambition is to get back up, and obviously Laois are looking like favourites to get to the final. After that Offaly, who are our next opponents. It is brilliant, it is absolutely ruthless, but it is fantastic to watch.

“It is something you'd like to see more coverage of it. The teams there, you look at the talent they have. Yes, there is a gap between Tier One and Tier Two, but it is only by winning and getting up, playing the best players in the country, that is how you improve yourself.”

Operating at this level is a challenge, but also brings satisfaction. “I'm in the military and everything is based on working as part of a team, never as an individual,” Molumphy explains. “So, to be honest and in this you have a lot of similarities.

“A lot of our backroom team are in the military also. It is very similar. It is extremely enjoyable, especially when you see players, and we'd go to all the club games, junior, intermediate, and senior in Kerry.

“When you see the talent, you ask them to come in, they come in and give it 100 per cent. Kyle O'Connor, for example, he made his debut against Cork in the Munster League last year which was fantastic.

"He scored a point from corner back, he is one of our best players now. Just to see that potential, young guys coming in, off the Kerry U20s, seeing them perform so well.

“You have the belief in them, but it is getting them to believe in themselves, things like that make a huge difference. This year again we had a lot of new, young players coming in, they have made a world of difference. They have taken spots, that makes it all worthwhile.”

Molumphy learned valuable lessons when working as a selector under Davy Fitzgerald and Liam Cahill in different set-ups. “I have been very lucky, to be honest, to be involved with Wexford and Waterford, and other club teams like Castlemartyr,” Molumphy says.

“Liam Cahill would be a role model of mine, he is one of the best managers in the country. I think he is exceptional, I'd have learned a lot from him.

Stephen Molumphy captaining Waterford in the 2011 All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final against Galway. Photo by Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

Stephen Molumphy captaining Waterford in the 2011 All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final against Galway. Photo by Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

“You're obviously watching the Munster Championship, how it goes, and how ruthless it is. You've been lucky, but you're always learning, every day is a school day. We have an exceptional backroom team down below.”

The hurling talk is constant, a willingness to improve matters deeply to Molumphy. “Our fitness levels are something we are very proud of with Dan Breen and John Blake as part of our team,” he adds.

“Little drills they are doing, you are looking over, learning. That is something you want to take. You're always learning every day. We have a performance coach in, Tadhg O'Donoghue, he actually has a military background. The way he speaks to players and addresses them, he gets the performance, you are learning from people around you.

“I remember from day one being taught, it is the team around you that makes you succeed, very much, if the people around you are pushing your limits, if they are better than you at something.

“When I came down to Kerry I was doing more coaching, but Shane Briggs was with us. He is an exceptional coach, I think he is one of the best in the country. Straightaway to see how good he was at that, basically I had to realise that I had to take a backseat in terms of the coaching, to let him take the lead in that.

“So, it is what you want, a backroom team pushing your limits, pushing you out of your comfort zone, they have new ideas or thinking new things outside of the box. For me, that is brilliant.”

The importance and relevance of leadership is raised with Molumphy. “When you mention leadership, what we have asked from day one is that we want all the players on the field to be leaders, they have heard that before, Tomás O'Connor is our captain, he is fighting now to get his spot, injury kept him out, now he is trying to get his space back,” Molumphy says.

“He speaks very well and the leadership he shows, I'd say it is more difficult for him because he was out with an injury and is trying to get back in.”

As Molumphy transitioned from player to selector to manager, his perspective has altered somewhat. “It has changed for myself, managers like to show leadership, but the real leadership is on the pitch,” he says.

“We've spoken to the lads, leadership is when you do it yourself, you're inspiring others by the actions you do. As a manager you're looking at strengths and weaknesses, who plays where, their potential, and you slot them in.

“It is the 15 leaders on the pitch, their performance, their turnover, their winning the ball, that shows leadership to the other lads on the pitch. We want everyone to be leaders showing that. It has definitely helped, as a manager on the sideline, it is the players, who are the real leaders.”

Still passionate and purposeful, there is joy in the Kerry journey for Molumphy.