Paul Murphy enjoying Kerry adventure
By Cian O'Connell
Paul Murphy never took anything for granted. Still, there is a different feeling attached to preparing for a third All Ireland final with Kerry.
Back in 2014 and 2015, Murphy’s first two years on the inter-county beat, Kerry played into September so the intervening campaigns brought demoralising defeats and debate.
That is simply the way it as in Kerry, but Murphy is accompanied by a sense of satisfaction once more. Kerry will operate on the biggest day of the lot once more this weekend.
“Delighted, '14 was my first year so in the first two years I had a final,” Murphy says. “While I never took it for granted, I knew these were special you probably don't appreciate just how much goes into it to get there.
“You put the same amount of work in during the years since, but you are beaten in a semi final or a Super 8. Having seen the other side of it I'm really, really looking forward to it and appreciate being part of a big day like this again.”
Murphy senses that something is stirring in Kerry, the locals are behind an emerging outfit packed with promising talent.
“It is great, you can see the bounce in people around the county,” Murphy admits. “We are really looking forward to it as a group of players and as a county. It is great to be back there for our first final since 2015, we are really looking forward to it.”
A raft of high profile retirements in recent years ensures the make up of the Kerry panel has altered dramatically. Peter Keane, though, appears to have blended a nice mix together. “We have lost a few great men, great players, great servants,” Murphy says.
“They are good friends of yours, who you are used to meeting two or three times a week. Then suddenly you might only meet two or three times a year.
“That is a natural life cycle of a panel. We've younger lads, who have come in during the last year or two. They are doing well and they have really good attitudes, they want to work and learn.
“The most important thing is that they are standing up in games and putting in big performances when required which is great. The average age has come down a bit. There is a good bond building in the panel. We are all really looking forward to the challenge ahead now.”
So, has Murphy’s role changed in the Kerry set-up? Does he find himself assisting the developing players in a way that others helped him settle?
“Yeah, you probably would,” Murphy replies. “I find myself speaking. If I compare it to my first All Ireland final in '14 when I was 22 or 23 you are speaking up in meetings more often, things like that.
“Probably you are looking at the bigger picture that bit more. I think as a younger lad sometimes you have enough to be doing to look after your own role. That is fine. That is absolutely fine.
“You probably just get more comfortable in the role and in the team environment as you get older. Some lads come in they are able to do it straightaway, other lads are different, it takes them a while to find their feet.
“That is fine, but I think as you go on you see your position in the group change slightly. It isn't a huge game changer or anything like that.”
Undoubtedly significant sacrifices are made to play at an elite level with Kerry, but enjoyment remains critical according to Murphy.
“It is, 100%,” Murphy remarks. “If you weren't it is really hard to justify doing it because it is a huge amount of sacrificing time and commitment for other things. If there was no enjoyment there I just couldn't justify doing it.
“There is a huge enjoyment, there is a great bond within the group. You are meeting your friends three or four times a week maybe. I enjoy training, things like that, but the buzz and enjoyment out of a Championship win there is nothing like it really.
“There is a huge amount of pride for you personally, for your family and your club to be representing all of them on the county team.
“You should never underestimate or understate that, it is a brilliant achievement to play inter-county. You need to enjoy it, to be proud of what you are doing.”
Ultimately such drive and desire is why Kerry hit Croke Park heartened on Sunday even though they are fully aware of Dublin’s pedigree.
“The stakes are high, nothing more needs to be said about Dublin,” Murphy comments. “They are a brilliant team, they have been for a number of years.
“A huge, huge challenge is waiting for us. We are going to give it absolutely everything we have to see how it goes.”
This is an interesting time in the Kerry GAA story. Five All Ireland minor titles on the spin were accumulated, talented footballers continue to be crafted in the Kingdom.
“They are, the turnover in players in the last two or three years is phenomenal by any stretch,” Murphy adds.
“I just happened at home to find the programme from the 2014 All Ireland Final programme. I'm not sure of this, but there is a chance that more players who played in the minor final that day will start for us than in the senior final.
“That isn't too long ago. It doesn't seem that long ago to me anyway. That will tell you the turnover of players, the change in make-up of the panel in the last few years.
“They are coming in, getting a chance, and a lot of them are taking it. They have good attitudes and the right approach to the whole thing. They are working hard and really want to be there. They really want to be playing for Kerry, it is great to see, and they are bringing huge energy to the whole thing.”
It is precisely what Murphy continues to do. Energy and enthusiasm have been repeatedly demonstrated by Murphy in his seven years performing for Kerry. Sunday is the next stop on the journey.