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Murray: 'I know how good I can be and I'm hungry to show that off'

The Munster scrum-half says the recent criticism of his form didn’t affect him as he looks to return to his world-class best.

CONOR MURRAY KNOWS he must take the good with the bad, and the bad with the good. Praise and criticism are not mutually exclusive in the context of a single season, nor do prior performances or achievements grant him an exemption from the latter. It all comes with the territory, and job title. 

And the scrum-half knows better than most that when the team is off-colour, or off the pace, the half-backs usually cop the flak. His every pass, every box-kick, every stride is analysed and over-analysed. What’s wrong with Conor Murray? Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a reason. It’s just the way it is.

Conor Murray Conor Murray was in Dublin yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The best way of dealing with it, he says, is by accepting it. None of the analysis, commentary or public meltdown over his form overly bothers him. He doesn’t read what’s written about him or listen to what’s said about him. In fact, he doesn’t take any notice of the outside noise or hysteria. 

Amidst the panic over Ireland’s Six Nations performances, and the individual form of key individuals like the Munster nine, Murray remained calm and unconcerned. 

“It didn’t get to me because I genuinely don’t see much media,” he says. “But this time around is a bit different because the Six Nations, everyone is watching it and your mates are chatting to you and they’re saying ‘did you see what this fella said about you?’ and I genuinely didn’t.

“I get it though, I completely get it. I agree with you, I probably wasn’t at my best during the Six Nations but if you know the game, you know it’s built on small margins and small fixes. We tried to work our way through it during the Six Nations as an individual and a group. I don’t let it affect me.”

Murray, by his own admission, has not returned to the levels of performance of last season, but insists he is not far off. The delivery of his pass, usually so effective, was not as crisp and clean as it was before the injury, and then there was his box-kicking, which was placed under the most intense microscope. But it’s only because the public and media expect — and now demand — a world-class standard every time he pulls the green or red on. 

“It’s not a compliment but it’s probably a sign of the times that people expect us to be at a certain level or reach certain heights,” he continues. “When we don’t, there’s a bit of panic.

But the bit that frustrates me is when family are affected by it. I’m in camp and I’m with the lads and with the coaches and we have a realistic view of where we are and what we need to do and fix and what’s going well and what’s going too well. When someone says something they’ve read to you, you’re like ‘why are you reading that? That doesn’t make sense’.

“I don’t really mind what that person says anyway because it doesn’t affect my life, it doesn’t me, it doesn’t affect my performances at the weekend. But it is frustrating because during the Six Nations, it was probably the most hype about form and individuals and teams not performing that I’ve ever been involved with.”

“Luckily enough, I haven’t experienced that too much before. From my point of view, as a nine, as a half-back, when things are going well, you’ll get plaudits and you’ll probably get overly praised because you’re at the hub of the team.

“It’s the exact same thing when the team isn’t going well. I’m around long enough to know that when things aren’t going that well you’ll probably get a bit more heat. I’m completely okay with that, I completely get that. It doesn’t really frustrate me, that’s just the way it is. That’s just the way rugby is. It’s built on small margins and it’s probably fair because on the bad side of things, if I throw a loose pass during a really good phase of play, it kills the attack. That’s the big picture. On the flip side, if you keep it going, and nail that final pass or end up finishing that try, then things look really good.

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“It’s small margins that you can’t get too upset about, because it’s just a bit mad how it sways either side and that’s just the way it is. You can’t change it either, so I don’t pay any attention to it.”

Conor Murray with Viliame Mata The scrum-half in action against Edinburgh last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After the disappointment of Ireland’s championship, and in particular that chastening final afternoon in Cardiff, Murray was happy to get away from rugby on a down week before returning to Munster for last weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final win over Edinburgh.

The 29-year-old was encouraged by the ‘character’ Johann van Graan’s side showed in holding firm to see off a tough Edinburgh outfit, and certainly, Murray’s own individual form is heading back on an upward trajectory after all the debate and negativity of the last two months.

“I analyse my own game, myself with coaches and what they’re looking for from me. And then go out the next week and try and do better, and that’s the case when I came back with Munster,” he adds.

“It was actually quite refreshing, the lads who weren’t involved with the Six Nations were actually so busy with this European week and even with us coming back in, they just lifted you up and lifted your spirits.

I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself anyway but it just kind of distracted you. I was pretty happy with the game I played on Saturday. There’s always something, no one ever’s played the absolute perfect game.

“It was a step in the right direction for me personally, and I just keep working towards that because I know the levels I can hit, I know how good I can be and I’m hungry to show that off at this stage of the season, and I feel pretty good, and my body feels good injury wise. I feel great.”

Pinergy, the official energy partner to Munster Rugby, teamed up with its brand ambassador Conor Murray to announce that Pinergy will now be supplying all of its customers with electricity from 100 percent renewable energy sources. 

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Ryan Bailey

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