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Murphy set for 11th All-Ireland final with Kerry - 'The shorter year, I find it way more enjoyable'

The experienced Kingdom selector is set for another All-Ireland decider.

Kerry selector Diarmuid Murphy.
Kerry selector Diarmuid Murphy.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IT WAS NOT the first time that a Kerry manager came calling to wonder would Diarmuid Murphy stand on the sideline alongside him.

It was not even the first time that Jack O’Connor checked in, having first recruited the former goalkeeper, recently retired from the Kerry ranks, over a decade ago.

A second spell arrived for Murphy with Eamonn Fitzmaurice, the highlight arriving with Kerry’s last All-Ireland success in 2014.

And his third time taking up the role of Kerry selector occurred last winter with O’Connor back in the Kerry hotseat.

“Pretty much (straight away), not a lot of convincing involved,” says Murphy of the process to get him back into a Kerry setup.

“You can clearly see the potential in the group, there are a lot of fantastic footballers there, and when you get a chance to work with a group like that, I think you take it really because it might not come knocking again.

“It was an easy enough decision to make.”

Murphy is well acquainted with the experience of All-Ireland final day. He sampled the showpiece seven times as a player, climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand four times in celebration, while he was a selector alongside O’Connor in 2011 and with Fitzmaurice for the 2014 and 2015 deciders.

“The most noticeable thing is the shorter year, I find it way more enjoyable, to be honest. I know there are pros and cons with it, maybe from a promotional and marketing side of it, but definitely from a management side, from a coaching side, the fact that you have so many games in a shorter period of time, it’s much more enjoyable than playing games with four-week gaps between them, which would have been the case the last time I was involved.”

jack-oconnor-and-selectors-diarmuid-murphy-and-ger-okeefe Jack O'Connor with his Kerry selectors in 2011. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He feels he is not alone in being in favour of a shorter season, arguing the demands suits players better and feels the club games will also benefit.

“When you’re trying to sell to your player about getting involved in inter-county football, it’s up there with the pros anyway! And is certainly not one of the cons. Even last year, I was involved with the club back in Dingle and it was slightly different because we had Covid at the start of the year, but with the club scene in Kerry you could be potentially going from February through to December, which is a long year.

“Obviously, at inter-county, it’s a different level of involvement, but even from the playing side, outside of everything else, I think it’s worked well.

“Just speaking here in Kerry, our own club championship is starting two weeks after the All-Ireland. We’ve run off our county leagues this year, which will more or less be finished by the time that starts. For the club lads, if they want to go away on holidays or anything else, there is a bit of certainty with the calendar.

“It was a little bit scattered before, but I think this is worth persevering with.”

There will be a familiar face in opposition next Sunday in Croke Park, Cian O’Neill was a Kerry coaching colleague in 2014 but is now a Galway rival.

“Cian did a great job with us,” said Murphy.

“He was down for three years and he played a huge hand in us winning the All-Ireland in 2014. To be honest, we wouldn’t have won it without Cian really.

“I would be talking to Cian the odd time, Cian is a good guy and he’s a very good coach. Everywhere he goes, he gets success, and he has done a great job with Galway this year.”

eamonn-fitzmaurice-celebrates-with-diarmuid-murphy-and-cian-oneill Kerry All-Ireland winning celebrations in 2014. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A meeting of Kerry and Galway in an All-Ireland final brings Murphy back to another time in his football journey.

When the counties played out two games in 2000, he was a Kerry junior striving to make a senior breakthrough.

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“I had been on the junior team for a couple of years, made an All-Ireland final that year, and made a final a couple of years before that as well when Buddy O’Grady was training us.

“I was playing with West Kerry in the county championship as well, so you are always pushing your case that way. You’re always trying your best, trying to get in.

“I had done a lot of training with them (seniors) in 1997, three years before that, because they had a few injuries.

“But you just got to keep at it, keep plugging away and hoping that you get your break. If you get a bit frustrated or a bit cheesed off about it, you can get a bit bitter about the thing, and that’s no way to be, because you won’t make progress then if that’s the case.

“It was into the following year, more or less towards the end of the league in 2001,  so it was then that I got the nod (at senior). I was delighted with it.”

That was the springboard for Murphy to be a part of a highly successful spell for Kerry football. He featured in All-Ireland wins as a player and now watches the current group try to meet the expectation that it is time for them to deliver.

“I would say that’s the mindset that the boys have themselves really. In fairness to them, since I got involved with them, constant improvement seems to be the theme. 

“The group of players we have at the moment are at a good age. They are all in their mid to late 20s, which is probably when you are at your peak in terms of inter-county.

“Some of the lessons that they have taken on board from the last few years, individually as players and as a team as well, I am sure they are learning all the time from those.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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