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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 22 November, 2019
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A day in the life of Kilkenny star Murphy on peacekeeping duties in Lebanon

Paul Murphy will miss next year’s league campaign due to his upcoming tour of duty with the Irish army.

Paul Murphy was in Dublin airport for the Aer Lingus Super 11's Jersey launch.
Paul Murphy was in Dublin airport for the Aer Lingus Super 11's Jersey launch.
Image: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

KILKENNY DEFENDER PAUL Murphy is describing his average day on a tour of duty in Lebanon with the Defence Forces.

“The last time I was out there, I was an APC (armoured personnel carrier) Commander so I was with the armoured car,” he says.

“We’d go on patrol every day, one day you could be on four patrols a day, you’d be driving around the area, you’re going to the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, you’re patrolling within towns and so on. That’s basically a lot of my time. 

“The following day you could be resting from duty so you actually have a bit of downtime, a bit of time to rest up, go get a bit of training done, whatever it is. 

“Then on the weekends you have the Sunday off and we used to organise hurling training for a Sunday and everyone from the priest with the unit up to the battalion commander used to go down and play a bit of hurling, regardless of what level you were at.”

On Monday week, Murphy will fly out for his second stint in Lebanon which will last for six months. It means Murphy and fellow Kilkenny panellist Richie Reid miss the 2020 National League campaign.

This time around, Murphy’s remit will involve fewer patrols and more office work as part of his operations brief, which brings its own challenges.

“I won’t be going patrolling so my job compared to the fella beside me could be something completely different.  This time it’ll be a lot more office-based, probably a lot more structured but I’ll be out and about patrolling the odd time. 

“You’re really just monitoring what’s going on in your area of operations at the time. Certain times of the year, you’re trying to keep in tune with what’s happening with your AO (Area of Operations), religiously, culturally, there’s lots of different aspects going on. 

“At the moment in Lebanon, there’s big protests (happening), more so aimed at government level so you have to keep your eye on what’s going on there.

aer-lingus-super-11s-jersey-launch Paul Murphy takes flight. Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

“Do we send a patrol through this town on such a day? It might be a small bit sensitive so you hold back. These are basic decisions that are brought up. 

“Again you’re just monitoring activities, again, are there people walking too close to the Blue Line which is the border? Is there a bit of trouble in certain towns?

“These are things that are constantly ticking over, you’re watching and trying to monitor what way our patrols operate. That’s really in layman’s terms what we are trying to do.”

Some in the army find the lengthy spell away from home difficult. Shortly after leaving the Defence Forces, his Cats team-mate Colin Fennelly described his tour abroad as “a waste of time” but Murphy enjoys the change of pace and opportunity to work on other aspects of his life.

“Speaking for myself, I haven’t found it tough, I actually quite enjoy going over there. I really enjoy my job and overseas is probably the pinnacle of that so I enjoy the work and what we’re doing. 

“Of course it’s tough being away from family. I don’t have kids and obviously people with kids will find that a little bit tougher. Being away for Christmas can be tough because our trip is obviously going to be away for Christmas.

paul-murphy Murphy collects a ball during the All-Ireland final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“When I get out there, I really enjoy my training out there. The strength and conditioning staff will be onto you the whole time making sure you’re tipping away. I enjoy that, I enjoy my downtime then when I get to watch a few series on Netflix.

“I enjoy my time when I go out there. I think if you have a plan when you go out there, ‘OK, I’m going to use this to my benefit, I’m going to get fit’, or some people use it to learn a language in their downtime. Some people actually do online courses when they’re not on patrol.”

The four-time All-Star has recent experience of arriving back from a tour of duty on the cusp of championship, having done something similar in 2018. 

“Brian (Cody)’s very understanding, I’m not the first person to head away on an army tour.

“Eoin Larkin went away to Kosovo in 2007/08 and he came back and won Hurler of the Year so that’s what we have to aim for when you get back from overseas is Hurler of the Year!” he laughs.

He’ll stay in close contact with the new Kilkenny strength and conditioning coach Michael Comerford to monitor his fitness over the coming months. 

“You are trying to stay in touch because the strength and conditioning staff always say that it is very easy when you are out there to put on your runners to go for a run or the gym.

“It can be counterproductive because you are trying to pull yourself back, that is almost a skill in itself. The strength and conditioning fellas will say I want you training in the gym on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and do running Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, rest on Sunday.

“If you are there on Sunday and want to play soccer, if they have told you not to do it you have to restrain yourself to hold back. That is as much of a skill as pushing yourself to get into the gym in the first place really.

dj-carey New Kilkenny selector DJ Carey. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“They have everything structured so I’m not deciding what I have to do while I’m out there. I just have to follow their advice, I’m not ramping anything up, it is just up to them.

“I’m trying to mirror what Kilkenny are doing back in Ireland, Richie Reid will be the same in Lebanon. What you are hoping is that when you step off the plane when you come back you just slot in, that you are exactly the same fitness and agility.

“I’m not trying to do anything differently than the lads are doing really,” he adds.

DJ Carey and Martin Comerford have also been added to Cody’s backroom team for next season, a prospect that excites Murphy.

“If you told me earlier (in my career) that I would be coached by DJ or Martin Comerford it is a dream come true. To listen to these lads coming into the dressing room giving you a bit of advice or a word that you could do this or that, it is going to be brilliant.

“We have been very lucky for the last few years to have the likes of Derek Lyng, Michael Dempsey, James McGarry all these lads, we have great advice in the dressing room.

“I suppose fellas have been there before and done it so no better men than DJ Carey and Martin Comerford to step in there.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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