'It’s important to protect that culture and tradition - treating the jersey with respect'

Veteran defender Paul Murphy is preparing for his eighth All-Ireland final with the Cats.

AT 30 YEARS-old, Paul Murphy is one of the most experienced campaigners on the Kilkenny team.

Paul Murphy Paul Murphy was speaking the Kilkenny senior hurling media event. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

He made his senior debut for the Cats during the 2011 league and played in his first All-Ireland final that September when they exacted revenge on Tipperary.

Kilkenny’s backline that afternoon had a menacing look to it. Murphy’s partners in the on the last line defence were Jackie Tyrrell and Noel Hickey, while the half-back line contained Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and JJ Delaney. Not a bad lot to learn your trade from. 

Fast forward to 2019 and Murphy is the elder statesmen of the Cats defence. The lessons learned from his early years on the panel have proven invaluable for the Danesfort man.

“I came into a dressing room which was obviously full of (experienced) fellas, but at the same time full of very humble fellas,” he said.

“You might think a dressing room full of all those players with different All-Irelands and All-Stars, people would look at Premiership dressing rooms and see all these (egos). There was never a thing like that.

“It was a great example for a young player. It was just players that had their feet on the ground were just going out, not just performing on the pitch but training sessions and whatever it was. 

“Things like that, there was no word spoken but it was a great example for younger players,” he continued.

“As you get to be an older player, you can often think my actions are a lot better than going around being the big fella talking in the dressing room.

“You need to talk and give your bit of advice and so on, but often times by doing the professional things – approaching training properly, having yourself in the right condition, performing properly, all these different things, young players pick up on that. 

“That’s the best example you can give, and that’s the thing I’ve learned from the older players. Even just because you’re older, you don’t have any right to slack off. You have to if anything up your game a small bit more.” 

Peter Casey and Paul Murphy Paul Murphy challenges Peter Casey in the semi-final win over Limerick. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Players have come and gone over Brian Cody’s lengthy stint in charge but as he often says himself, the fundamentals of the game haven’t changed.

While the Cats have lost some of the game’s greatest ever players to retirement over the past decade, the winning culture within the squad means they’re still competing at the top table 

“Great lads have spoken over the years,” said Murphy. “Peter Barry always said it that it’s not your jersey, you’re just inheriting it. JJ used to always say that to us as well. Different things like that, it does feed into a culture and a tradition.

“I think you know, it’s important to protect that as well. You could have a player that has all the skill in the world, but if his attitude isn’t right, that can feed into a bad culture within the team.”

Youngsters Adrian Mullen, Huw Lawlor and Conor Browne all gave huge performances in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Limerick.

“Fortunately, we’ve had great young lads that have come through who respect what is there, respect the culture, know where they are, and know that it’s a great opportunity that they have but they have to respect that opportunity,” added Murphy.

“It’s important to protect that culture and tradition, treating the jersey with respect.”

Sunday will be Murphy’s eighth All-Ireland final, including replays in 2012 and 2014, and he’s found himself on the losing side just once.

It’s Kilkenny’s first trip to the decider since 2016, when Tipperary ravaged them to take a nine-point victory – Murphy’s sole defeat in the showpiece game.

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Paul Murphy and Eoin Murphy dejected Paul Murphy and Eoin Murphy watch on after the 2016 All-Ireland final loss. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Joey Holden shipped plenty of criticism following that game when Seamie Callanan took him for 0-13, while John McGrath and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer also shone as Tipp’s full-forward line posted 2-21 in total between them.

For Murphy, it was a chastening experience but he’s around long enough to that all you can do is learn from it and move on.

“It was one of those days. It could happen to you in a league match in the first week of February or it could happen to you in an All-Ireland final,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it happened in an All-Ireland final that day. The fullback line was singled out for our performance that day, but as a team, throughout the time after it, we would have looked at our individual performances.

“Part of you has to brush it off and say, ‘Look it can happen, move on’. It will serve you no good to dwell on it, or to knock your confidence. Obviously, it was very disappointing, but look we’ve moved on from there. It’s three years ago at this stage.

“If there’s a chance to right any wrongs, if that’s the way to look at it, isn’t it a great opportunity to be in an All-Ireland final now, playing the same team that bet ye three years ago? It has absolutely no bearing on the final.

“Even for an individual player if you were involved that day, you just have to think of the team this day, not going out worrying about your own performance or righting any wrongs. It was a disappointing day, that’s all you could put it on down to. Move on from it. We’re now in a position to win another All-Ireland final.

“If we were to win on Sunday, I don’t think you’d be too concerned about 2016 or you’d be thinking of it. You’d just be delighted that we’re after winning an All-Ireland final and we took the challenge on in the years after it, as opposed to lying down and accepting it as it was.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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