Munster Man

'I find it too good to leave here now - what you could potentially be involved in'

Conor Murray says his decision to stay with Ireland and Munster was quick and easy.

SIMON ZEBO DID his best to put the cat among the pigeons – as he tends to do – with an Instagram post featuring Conor Murray at the end of September.

There in Paris, at dinner with Racing 92′s Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and Finn Russell, was the Ireland scrum-half.

Zebo’s post included the hashtag ‘recruitment’ but the reality is that Murray had already signed a new three-year contract with the IRFU and Munster at that stage.

Conor Murray and Simon Zebo celebrate after the game 17/12/2017 Murray with former Munster and Ireland team-mate Simon Zebo. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

In truth, it was “a very easy decision” for Murray, who is set to make a return to action for Munster next month after missing the season so far due to a neck injury. 

While there was public uncertainty around Murray’s injury as he and Munster opted not to comment on it until they figured out what it actually was, the fact that the IRFU tied him down until the summer of 2022 underlined that he was going to recover fully.

Murray could possibly have earned more money by moving abroad but he says staying with Munster and Ireland was all he wanted after the 2019 World Cup – when his last contract was due to expire.

“It was a very quick decision,” says Murray. “I was glad I did it in September, with all the rumours [about his injury]. I knew and my family knew and my friends knew – if any of those rumours were true, they wouldn’t have given you a new deal.

“It was great to get that done and it took a lot of pressure off me. The rumour mill, it didn’t bother me at all because I knew I had it [the contract] sorted. That side of things was great.

“I grew up in the Munster academy. It’s the place I want to win, I want to win something. I’ve been saying it for years, every time this crops up, it’s ‘Oh, we’re building something, we’re getting there’ and then we change coach or something happens or we don’t quite perform at the semi-final stage.

“This year, more than ever – and it might sound like I’ve said it before – I’m really excited about Munster, really, really excited. Joey [Carbery] has settled in really well, a couple of man-of-the-matches.

“Tadhg [Beirne] does too against Exeter. He’s been class, he’s been really, really impressive.

Conor Murray PINERGY announced yesterday that it has teamed up with Conor Murray. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Mike Haley, he’s bubbling. He’s turned in a few good performances. I’ve given Zeebs plenty of stick that he’s better than him!”

Murray is optimistic about head coach Johann van Graan’s gameplan too, the South African having had a full pre-season to implement his ideas.

As for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland, Murray simply couldn’t have countenanced giving up on playing Test rugby in the green shirt.

“If I left or went to play somewhere else, you know you’re going to miss out on big days,” says the Limerick man. “It’s just the playing group we have now and the coaching that we have, the buzz around the national team is unbelievable.

“When international season comes around, that will be disappointing, not playing in November. That will be hard to deal with. I will enjoy it because I’m getting fit and I have a chance to get back again.

“But that kind of stuff was easy. Straight away, it was just. ‘I’d love to stay.’”

Murray has mentioned in the past that the idea of playing abroad did appeal to him, but that possibility is on the back burner for another four years now.

That said, he was impressed with what he saw of Racing 92′s set-up in Paris during a visit to Zebo earlier this month.

“He took me into Racing’s training ground on the Sunday after they played Lyon. It’s a really cool setup, eye-opening to a certain extent. I knew what it was like there, you know what places are like anyway.

Joey Carbery and Conor Murray celebrate winning Murray has enjoyed major success with Ireland. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“Zeebs was open about it – he’d always wanted to do it [play abroad]. I’d mentioned it before. It would be cool to have a change of scenery but I find it too good to leave here now – what you could potentially be involved in.

“I’ll have just turned 33 by the end of it, the new contract. That’s a long way away, thankfully. By then you’ll reassess and see what the lay of the land is. We’ll see how Zeebs gets on over the next couple of years. It’s early doors.”

For now, Murray is concentrating on taking the final steps to his return to action from his neck injury.

While he’s excited about pulling on a Munster jersey again, it will be difficult to watch as Kieran Marmion, Luke McGrath and John Cooney compete for Ireland’s number nine shirt next month.

“They’ve done really well, they’re really good players,” says Murray. “Over the last few seasons, I’ve started quite a number of games and played a quite a few minutes for Ireland. Those lads have been flying it for their provinces – Lukey, Marms and Coons.

“They’re going really well. That’s going to be the tough part of this November, watching those guys play well. They’re good players, that’s the way it is.

“That’s tough, but that’s professional sport and that motivates me to get back and play well and put myself in a position to play well and be selected again.”

PINERGY announced that it has teamed up with Conor Murray, for the 2018/2019 season, as part of its innovative #WeAre16 campaign.

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