NICHOLAS MURPHY HAS seen most things in his 15 year inter-county career.
But even for him, playing full-forward against Kerry was a step into the deep end.
Still, with the intense competition for places in the Rebel county’s midfield, the Carrigaline man is grateful just to get a shirt.
“It’s a different role but you’re happy enough to be on the team, no matter where you’re playing,” said the 34 year-old.
“If you can do a job, better again, but there’s a good panel there and there’s no guarantee of being in there the next day.”
“I suppose it was a surprise (to be picked there) in the end,” Murphy added, ”but I’m there long enough to understand that if you’re called in to do a job you try to do the best you can.
“I’d been going reasonably well, but at the same time it’s hard to change the lads that are there when they’re playing well. You try to push them as hard as you can, you have to try and improve them as well, but if you get the opportunity you try and grab it.”
It’s almost a month since the win over Kerry when injury to Fintan Goold and Pearse O’Neill meant mass reshuffle prior to the throw-in. That ability to react quickly, Murphy hints, is down to Conor Counihan’s squad rotation and blooding of young talent in the league.
“It was a freak thing just before the Kerry game with the two lads missing, but throughout the league a lot of players got good game-time, even the likes of Mark Collins and Barry O’Driscoll, who have come up from the U21 team.
“They’re pushing for places as much as the rest of us.”
Cork will be hoping that the internal rivalry over jerseys will cancel out the prospect of complacency towards their Munster final opponents, Clare. The veteran midfielder has a clear enough memory to recall another instance to warn any team-mate keen to jump the gun: the embarrassment of a 2-13 to 1-14 semi-final defeat fifteen years ago.
“You can never take anything for granted,” he says.“I was involved in the team that lost in 1997 up in Ennis. That wasn’t a great feeling when you were coming out of that dressing room and that was a game we were expected to win as well.”
Aidan Dorgan of Cork holds off John Enright in the 1997 Munster semi-final. © Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
So even with Kerry out of the way, he will be out to ensure Cork do not rest upon their laurels. His attitude could be put down to more recent painful memories. Murphy suspects Cork will have to beat Kerry a second time if they want the All Ireland.
“At the end of the day it was only a semi-final, there were no trophies handed out at the end of it. The next day is more important even than beating Kerry because you could meet them again down the line.
“We were going into our first game and there was a bit of ring-rustiness there to an extent so we’ve a lot to improve on and Kerry will improve too.”
On a roll
There is little substitute for experience. The only downside to that unquantifiable quality is that the body will soon fail the mind. Murphy is well aware that his days in a red jersey are numbered and he will be intent on adding at least two more medals before he finally gives it all up.
That time will come, but only when he ceases to enjoy every last minute.
“The team is on a good roll at the moment as well, but I just love playing football and playing for Cork and trying to win for Cork.
“When that goes, I go!”