WE HAVEN’T REALLY seen or heard from Jordi Murphy since that historic, and indelible, day in Chicago.
He’s put the head down, and embarked on a monotonous and extensive rehabilitation process after sustaining ACL damage to his left knee during that win over New Zealand; a memorable occasion in so many ways, but a bittersweet one for the Leinster flanker.
“I’ve had plenty of time to try and appreciate it,” he says.
“It was incredible to be involved on the day. Obviously I would have liked to have played a further part in the game but I guess, the way I can look at it, and the way people have been telling me to look at it is, I was there and played a part in it. It can’t be taken away from me. It’s just unfortunate that I got injured there.
“I suppose the silver lining is you’d rather get injured in that game than in a lot of others.”
It was a cruel blow for Murphy, who had just worked his way back into Joe Schmidt’s plans after a dip in form following the 2015 World Cup saw him fall into the international wilderness.
“I felt like I was going alright at the start of the season but it’s just the way of it, there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s just what happened.”
The incident — completely innocuous — occurred 26 minutes into Ireland’s 40-29 win over the All Blacks at Soldier Field, and a little over ten minutes after Murphy had set Joe Schmidt’s men on their way with his second international try.
As New Zealand went to restart the game with a quick line out, Murphy looked to change direction and felt his knee ‘go the complete opposite way to where it should be going.’
The former Blackrock College man knew straight away he was in serious trouble and the scans revealed the extent of the damage; six to nine months on the sideline.
“I just remember it being pretty sore for about a minute or two and then they gave me a green puffer thing and then it wasn’t sore. I don’t know [what was in it] and I don’t know if I’m allowed say either,” he joked.
“[Conor] Murray box kicked and it had just bounced in play and kind of dribbled out and they went for a quick throw and I kind of went to chase it down because I didn’t hear the ref’s whistle and the next thing I just felt pain.
“I knew straight away it wasn’t great and then I suppose after a few seconds…it was obviously very sore but I was more upset about the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to play the rest of the game considering I felt there had been that kind of momentum shift.
“Obviously they scored pretty early on and then I scored and CJ [Stander] after and I felt like we were rumbling on and I just wanted to be part of it. It was very disappointing knowing I was going to have to go off.”
As Murphy was undergoing an x-ray in the bowels of the stadium, his team-mates produced an incredible, and even now, a scarcely believable performance to bring the world champions to their knees.
Enduring incomprehensible physical pain and the mental torture of not being out there, Murphy wasn’t prepared to let the occasion slip by as he defied medical advice to join in the jubilant celebrations at full time.
“I didn’t watch the rest of the first half because I went for an x-ray and I was outside the changing room waiting for them to do the half time team talk because I didn’t want to go in while they were doing that,” the 25-year-old recalls.
“I just got changed and stuff, my Dad was with me and we watched a bit of the game on the video analysis laptop and the American doctors, who are very good, but they can be a bit fussy, were trying to get us to go to the hospital for more scans but sure we knew the leg was done. I was like ‘I’m not leaving now like, there’s 15 minutes to go in the biggest game of Irish history possibly.’
“Anyway they kept pestering me, so we sent them off anyway to get the car and then we snuck out the back and got out on the pitch on crutches, we made it though. They couldn’t get to us then, we were on the pitch.’
“After the game, I was celebrating as much as I could. There was literally nothing I could do so I just tried to enjoy it. I had family over there that live there and then family who traveled over so I just spent the evening with them, I didn’t move too far from the hotel.”
Three months on and Murphy is making encouraging progress. The initial prognosis suggested his season was all but over but he’ll step-up the recovery in the coming weeks with a return to running; it’s very much a step-by-step approach and Murphy appreciates the need to be patient.
“It’s still too early to have a date in mind unfortunately but it kind of depends on what the specialist says,” Murphy continued. “Hopefully I’ll start running when I meet him. Once you start running, it’s just about getting a week or two under your belt and getting comfortable and then taking hits.
“But it’s the kind of injury, I’ve been talking to other players about it, you just don’t want to be coming back too early. Obviously as a player, I want to be getting back as fast as I can but I’m getting advice from physios and stuff to make sure not to over do it. I’ll see.”
When asked if we could see him back before the end of the current campaign, Murphy added: “Yeah, that’s always been my goal – to try and get back before the end of the season and then try and break into a team that has been going so well.
“We’ll just wait and see. At the moment, I haven’t had any setbacks so I want to keep it that way. Obviously six to nine months is not what you want to hear but you still try and be optimistic about it. I got a lot of advice from other players, unfortunately it’s happened to people before.
“I knew what was ahead of me and I’ve just tried to me optimistic about it. The physios and rehab specialists involved in Leinster and all the help I’ve been getting has been great.”
Ten days after the operation, Murphy was back in Leinster working with the province’s medical staff to build the muscle back up in his knee. It has been a long road back and there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome yet but he has remained positive throughout.
“I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be playing for a long time so you take the positives out of it. I can work on things. I had a bit of shoulder and groin pain before it so I have been working on that, just to get back in hopefully the best physical shape I have been in.
“I’m trying to fill up my time with other stuff. I’m finishing my degree [in Business Studies] this year as well. It’s about keeping yourself busy. So far so good, as good as this can be.”
Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin launched the Vodafone #TeamOfUs Bus competition yesterday. Vodafone is giving 16 lucky people a #TeamOfUs experience with tickets for Ireland v England in Aviva Stadium and the opportunity to travel to the game in style on the #TeamOfUs Bus with Ireland players Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin. See the Vodafone Ireland Facebook page for details.
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