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A selector role after a cup of tea, the 2008 final nightmare and a fractured skull in a club game

Eoin Murphy’s Waterford hurling journey brings him to Sunday in Croke Park.

pjimage (4) Waterford defender and selector Eoin Murphy. Source: INPHO

TEN DAYS BEFORE the Munster semi-final in June, Waterford were in Fota Island immersed in their preparations for the upcoming challenge that Cork posed.

Eoin Murphy is living in Midleton these days, so he popped in to catch up with his old team-mates Brick Walsh and Kevin Moran, the survivors from the team that captured the imagination with four provincial crowns in a nine season spell.

“I called up to see Brick and see Kevin because I knew them from playing with them. I just called in for a cuppa because they were there for a few days.

“I knew Derek (McGrath), I was in UCC and he was a bit ahead of me. But I would have known him through Waterford GAA anyway.

“I got chatting with himself and Dan then. He was kind of messing at one stage saying, ‘You’d look nice with a bib on you!’, but he didn’t make any approach.”

When McGrath surveyed the wreckage after Waterford’s loss to Cork, he sought to bolster his management team. Thus Murphy, a solid, dependable corner-back in his playing days was drafted in.

Eoin Murphy hugs Davy Fitzgerald Eoin Murphy and Davy Fitzgerald after the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final victory. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“With three kids it’s not the easiest thing to do, to commit to (this). He probably knew a full year for me would be a big commitment.

“He approached then in early June and it was like the stars aligned.

“I hadn’t gone back with my club this year and had actually taken a break from hurling for about five or six months just to do some other things that I’m interested in and to spend time with family.

“When the message came through my eyes lit up. I wanted this, I just had to speak to Leona about it.”

Murphy came on board and has seen Waterford return to winning ways while careering through the championship.

Sunday sees a tilt at All-Ireland glory. In the last half century, Waterford have only had one other such outing in early September.

Murphy took his post in defence at 3.30pm on 7 September 2008 and by 5pm was gathering his senses after Waterford had been pulverised by 23 points by a Kilkenny whirlwind.

“I’m trying to remember back. I have probably tried to delete the whole game from my memory. I shared it with the lads there last week.

“It was the best three weeks of my life followed by the worst six. I dreamed of playing in an All-Ireland final for so long as a young fella, just not that one.

“That one never came into my dreams. That was a nightmare.

Eddie Brennan and Eoin Murphy Eoin Murphy in action in the 2008 All-Ireland hurling final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“They totally hit the ground running and we just met a storm on the day. They went for it and they just put us away. Unfortunately, it was gone after 10 or 15 minutes.

“There was no way back at that stage and unfortunately, it was like dominos for the whole group – you just flick them and they’re gone.

“It’s a bit like your wedding day. All the preparation that goes into it, before you know it, it’s over. It’s gone like that.”

Murphy didn’t get the chance to claim the Liam MacCarthy Cup again as a player. But he doesn’t need to search too far for perspective on that disappointment.

In April 2011 he fractured his skull in a game with his club Shamrocks, an injury that could have had graver consequences.

“I ended up going back for the end of that year but yeah, I hung up the boots after that at intercounty level. I went back with the club, which my wife and my mother wouldn’t have been too happy about. But I got the all clear.

“I more or less blocked down a fella with my head. I got in a bit early and I flicked the ball away as he was turning and I was trying to get out of the way but he kept coming with his pull and I took the full force of it.

“I was a very lucky boy. The helmet saved my life. I still have a little indentation there on the side of my temple. If I ever lose my hair you’ll be able to see it. I was lucky.

Eoin Murphy Former Waterford hurler Eoin Murphy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Thanks to the medical personnel in Waterford and Cork, it just healed – they didn’t have to intervene or operate.

“It was a freak accident, just one of those things. Bad timing. But at the time, it was a weird sensation.

“Now I know what it was – there were bones breaking and there was a bit of bleeding on the brain. But thankfully everything settled down and it just healed itself. I was 32 at the time.”

To have a front-row seat for an All-Ireland final is a situation he feels privileged to be in.

“I think the best management just facilitates the players to get the best out of themselves. For me, it’s seeing players reaching their absolute maximum, really attacking and going for it, hurling on instinct.

Noel Connors and Brian O’Halloran celebrate Noel Connors and Brian O'Halloran celebrating the win over Cork. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“So it’s fantastic and I will be personally over the moon if we win. But I think honestly I will be over the moon for the group and the players.

“For me coming in in June, I feel extremely lucky and privileged and grateful to be given the opportunity. Derek started this job with Dan four years ago.

“It’s easy for me to come in in June, just 10 days before championship. I will just be delighted for the group, more so than for myself if we can get over the line.”

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