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Final year medicine studies and Leinster career keeping Murphy busy

The 25-year-old back row is nearing the end of his degree in UCD.

Murphy made his first start in the Champions Cup last month.
Murphy made his first start in the Champions Cup last month.

BUT FOR COVID-19, Josh Murphy would be in the midst of trying to figure out how to balance his professional rugby career with hands-on work experience in a hospital as part of the final year of his UCD degree in medicine.

Rugby players are more aware than ever of the need to have a back-up plan, but few of them are as ambitious as Murphy, who is into his eighth year of combining sport and study.

Once restrictions allow, he will need to go into a hospital and shadow an intern doctor as one of the requirements for his degree.

“You go in for a few weeks and learn the basic life support stuff, so if someone collapses in front of you, you know what to do – which, for a young doctor, is to call for help from someone else,” says Murphy with a smile.

Balancing rugby and medicine has been a challenge for 25-year-old back row Murphy throughout his career, although he has someone he can turn to in this regard in the Leinster environment in Dr Felipe Contepomi.

The Argentinian out-half somehow managed to work as a doctor while also playing professional rugby for Leinster and is now part of the province’s coaching staff.

“I’m still a student but he worked while he was here,” says Murphy with a note of admiration. “I was asking him how he went about it and got people to agree to let him work.

“He put me at ease a bit that it is possible to work around a rugby schedule, even though it is a different time in rugby and medicine.

“He put me at ease that I have options and I don’t need to worry too much about splitting the two, I’ll figure something out.”

Meanwhile, Leinster’s in-house doctor, John Ryan, a consultant in emergency medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital, has unsurprisingly been suggesting to Murphy that he go down the same specialist route but Murphy hasn’t made any decision yet and has “plenty of options.”

There are inspirations for Murphy in other sports, with Dublin footballer Jack McCaffrey chief among them having balanced his All-Ireland winning commitments with working towards becoming a doctor in Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

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josh-murphy-is-tackled-by-dimitri-arhip Murphy has been a physical presence for Leinster. Source: Paul Walsh/INPHO

“I suppose it’s a little bit different in that they fit all their training into the evening times – it’s a professional environment squashed into the evening – so it would almost be handy for me if we could do that at Leinster because it’s kind of nice to get into the mornings for the rounds in the hospital to actually get a lot of learning in.

“But, yeah, it’s absolutely class what he’s done. He has obviously won five or six All-Irelands while still getting a degree and I don’t think he did the degree as slowly as me either, so yeah, he’s absolutely an inspiration!”

With Murphy soon qualifying, it remains unclear even to him how exactly things will work as he attempts to ensure his degree in medicine doesn’t go to waste but also continues his rugby career.

“It’s a unique situation which I am kinda feeling out at the moment and having a talk with a few of the UCD doctors and teachers in there to see what my options actually are.

“It’s never set in stone I suppose. At the moment, I am absolutely loving playing rugby still, so I am not going to finish that up yet. But it is something to think about and I am thinking about it. We’ll have to see.”

Things have been going very well for Murphy on the pitch with Leinster in recent seasons as he has become an increasingly prominent part of the squad under Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster, consistently performing when given chances.

He made his first Champions Cup start against Northampton last month, coming into the XV from the bench at a late stage when Caelan Doris was forced to drop out injured.

“It was kinda nice because you don’t have the same anxiety when you are on the bench for some reason, even though you are just as well prepared,” says Murphy.

“You can eat a bit more that morning. I knew I was on the bench, I was relaxed, ready to come on, and then you just get told before the game, so you’re like ‘OK, let’s go.’ 

“I actually had an exam the week of the Northampton game, so that was an interesting week. There was plenty of sleep after that!”

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Murray Kinsella

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