Leitrim hurler Joe Murray carries on proud family tradition
By John Harrington
The late Josie Murray will always be known as one of the greats of Leitrim football.
Captain of the the Leitrim minor team that won the 1956 Connacht championship, he went on to play for the seniors in the Connacht Finals of ’58, ’59, ’60, and ’61 and was chosen as centre half back on the Leitrim Football Team of the Millennium.
Josie’s son Keith ‘emigrated’ to Dublin, but the family link with Leitrim GAA has now been renewed because Keith’s son Joe stars for the Leitrim hurling team that will play Cavan in the Allianz Hurling League Division 3B Final on Saturday.
Dublin born and bred and a member of the Round Towers club in Clondalkin, Joe Murray is hugely proud to follow in the footsteps of his Grandfather Josie by wearing the Leitrim jersey.
“I was on a few underage squads in Dublin and then when you leave the U-20s its quite difficult to break into the senior set-up because there's such a big pick in Dublin,” Murray told GAA.ie
“The Leitrim manager, Olcan Conway, is actually married to my Dad's cousin so he knew me well already. For a year and a bit he'd give me the odd phone-call to see would I be interested in hurling for Leitrim, he told me there was a space there for me if I wanted to play senior county hurling.
“I was humming and hawing about it for a while, but eventually I decided to go for it because I'd have such strong family connections to the county. So I said I'd give it a go and see what happens and I've been there now for the past year and a bit and it’s been a great experience.”
A Leinster Minor Championship winner with Dublin in 2018, Murray’s talent has always been apparent, but he was still nervous when he walked into a Leitrim senior dressing-room fro the first time last year.
“Yeah, I was nervous enough,” he says. “I had the experience of being in Dublin underage panels but going into a dressing-room in a different county was a different kettle of fish.
“But the lads were brilliant. I walked in and you'd swear I'd known them for years. There's a great bunch of lads there, and some of them are also based up in Dublin so we meet up the odd time for a puck around. They're a great bunch.
“When you go into a set-up for a first time you're wondering will lads like your style of play or not and you're sort of thrown into the deep end.”
Murray wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the level Leitrim were hurling at, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by the standard since joining the team last year.
“The lads have a great skillset, I'd put them on a par with the lads here in Dublin,” he says. “They're really good, the standard was higher than I expected.
“When you look at Leitrim you'd say it's more of a footballing county but I went in with an open mind and it's actually a high enough standard.
“They've a good bunch of lads who aren't just from Leitrim. There's a few lads from Mayo, there's two lads from Dublin, so there's a good mix there. And we all drive each other on with the different skill-sets and different backgrounds, we all bounce off each other.
“I was actually surprised just how skilful the other boys were when I first came in and playing with Leitrim has really brought on my game. My first touch, fitness, and mentality have all come on leaps and bounds so I'm really chuffed with that.”
A corner-forward with speed, skill, and an eye for a score, Murray has quickly become a key member of the Leitrim team.
He scored two goals in the League semi-final against Longford and hopes victory over Cavan in Sunday’s Final will accelerate the upward trajectory of this Leitrim team.
“Last year we made it to the League semi-final and just lost out to Fermanagh by a few points and then Louth beat us in the Championship semi-final in the Lory Meagher in added time so we feel like we’re making good progress as a team and hopefully we can take it a step further this weekend.
“No better surface to play it on than Abbotstown, it's like a carpet out there. I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully we can the win.”
Saturday, April 1
Allianz Hurling League Division 3B Final
Cavan v Leitrim, GAA National Development Centre Abbotstown, 3pm