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'We were in a training ground with half a foot of grass' - leaving Cork thriving after 10 years

Paudie Murray stepped down as manager this week after helping the county to four All-Irelands.

DEPARTING CORK CAMOGIE boss Paudie Murray says he always felt this would be his last year in the bainisteoir bib after almost 10 years of service on the sideline.

paudie-murray-with-his-team-after-the-game Paudie Murray with the Cork camogie team after this year's All-Ireland semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Coming into the role in 2012, Murray never envisaged that he would retain the position for this long. A two-year term was the timeframe he had in mind at the time.

He assumed the role with some camogie experience, having previously helped the Cloughduv club to three senior county titles. He also had family connections in the sport, including his sister Aoife, who was Cork’s first-choice goalkeeper for almost two decades.

Four All-Ireland crowns later, along with “one or two” that slipped through their grasp, and Murray is finally ready to hand in his badge and give his blessing to a new voice with fresh ideas to replace him.

“I suppose I had it [my mind] made up earlier on this year,” Murray tells The42 after his resignation was announced last night.

“After the All-Ireland final, I was done and dusted. Even if we had won, I would have always felt that I think it’s important that a new voice in the dressing room and a change. [I have] probably something else coming up as well so it was time for me to move on.

“My goal was to rebuild the team and I had strong belief in that. I didn’t want to leave the team in a worse state than where I got it. There’s a very good, talented team coming now. I think the next person coming in is going to be important for the growth of this team. I would like to have cracked it, we weren’t far off this year.

“I’ve a small bit of regret leaving that I didn’t finish the job but I think we as a management team can be happy with what we’re leaving.

“I think the players have known all along that there was going to be changes so it was no secret really.”

Elaborating on why he stayed at the helm for 10 years, Murray added:

“One of the reasons I stayed for so long was that I always felt that every year I went back, I was learning more and more. The environment was changing for women’s sport. Some of the players I was working were some of the best the game has ever seen.

“I was lucky that a lot of the management team that came in were good people, and really professional in their job. There was always a great atmosphere as well in training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It’s all about having the craic, I think that was important as well.”

Stepping off the stage with four All-Ireland titles is an impressive haul, but Murray wanted more. They fell short against Galway in this year’s decider, a missed opportunity which he says “will annoy me”. He’s also thinking of their 2016 final against a Kilkenny side who came out on top to end a 22-year wait for the O’Duffy Cup.

Cork’s rivalry with Kilkenny has been one of the most fascinating features of camogie. Their recent battle in the All-Ireland semi-final also comes to Murray’s mind as a big highlight of his, where an emerging Cork outfit edged out the experienced Cats who were the reigning All-Ireland champions.

He also recalls an All-Ireland semi-final between the sides where his outfit were again the victors.

Going forward, Murray will still be involved in camogie. He’s currently with the St Finbarr’s club, who have a senior county semi-final against Inniscarra on Saturday 16 October. He’s also a leading candidate to become the next manager of the Cork minor hurlers.

“There hasn’t been a decision made on it,” he responds when asked about that prospect. “I have been involved with the U16 development squads in Cork this year and last year with the U15s. Obviously, it was limited last year due to Covid.

“I would like to move on with them (the U16s). It’s a new challenge. I enjoyed my time with them so who knows? It’s up to the Cork county board to appoint me. It’s not my decision.”

The demands placed on a manager have increased since Murray first took over with Cork. He explains that the job has developed into a 24-7 commitment, while also acknowledging the positive changes for the sport including the increased media attention.

paudie-murray-speaks-to-the-media Paudie Murray was first appointed as Cork camogie boss in 2012. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“This year leading up to the All-Ireland final, look I’m lucky enough that I’m very busy work-wise but I did find it difficult.

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“Starting out in 2012, we going through the downturn and things were very quiet which allowed me far more time than this year. This year, business is really thriving so I found it very difficult time-wise.

“There’s obviously far more spotlight now on women’s sport which is great. Preparation has changed dramatically from when I started which is another positive for women’s sport.

“I remember in 2014 I think, we went to Wexford to play a league match and that was a very good Wexford team at the time. We drove into a new complex, state of the art [grounds], it was real Celtic Tiger stuff.

“I was thinking we were going to play on the main pitch and we were put down into a training ground with grass half a foot deep with no lines on the pitch. To come from that to playing league matches in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is great for the sport.

“I’ve learned a lot.

“The groups down the years were quite demanding. I suppose when you’re dealing with the likes of Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, my own sister, Gemma O’Connor, Orla Cotter and some of the greats of the game, you’re probably always going to be under pressure to keep them happy and drive things on.”

The search for Murray’s successor has begun, and the Irish Examiner is reporting that Middelton native Jerry Wallace is the favourite to take over. There are a number of others who have reportedly been linked with the vacancy including Cork intermediate camogie manager Mark McCarthy, and outgoing Cork senior selector Matthew Twomey.

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