By Kieran Murphy
JOE Murphy may have won five Leinster club senior football medals as a player but he says he was never motivated to try and repeat these successes as a manager. Now that he is in a position to win a provincial title as a manager, the thoughts of doing so must be crossing his mind.
After leading Old Leighlin to senior championship successes in 2010 and 2011, the opportunity to manage Éire Óg came in 2016. The club had last won a title in 2012. When he took over the team they were accused of lacking steel and of being soft.
“It is still not a top priority (winning Leinster). To me it was a focus on getting Éire Óg to be a force in Carlow, putting together back-to-back wins in the championship and feeling strong every year we go into the championship,” said Joe.
“It was pressing the reset button and talking a step back to see where we were going wrong. That was the brief coming in. It was game by game after that.”
Éire Óg may have won a hat-trick of titles under Murphy but there were set-backs along the way. Rangers knocked them out of the championship in his first year in charge. After beating Palatine in a mind-numbing and desperate 2018 county final by 0-9 to 0-5 they were heavily criticised. Then they lost badly to Mullinalaghta in Leinster.
Even this year, Tinryland beat them but since then Éire Óg have blossomed.
“There was a bit of hurt along the way,” agreed Joe.
“Some of the defeats were hard to take. Mullinalaghta was a harsh lesson to learn.”
When Murphy was playing, the arrival of Bobby Miller as manager brought instant success in Carlow and then in Leinster. Murphy contrasted those heady times to the progress of the current group.
“I guess at that time the club felt it needed a change in 1992. It changed straight away. This time I think the players (themselves) felt they needed a change of direction or attitude. It was a slower burn from when Bobby Miller came in. That can be the case sometimes. It isn’t always like flicking on a light switch,” Murphy mused.
On Sunday this group of players face a massive test. Murphy wants them to play to their potential and when it is all over they have to feel they could not have done any more. The displays against Sarsfields and Portlaoise in particular this year show they can mix it outside Carlow.
“For Sunday we are going to have to improve again. If we do that and be honest with ourselves we cannot have too many complaints,” says Murphy.
He doesn’t want the players to be consumed by Leinster as he tries to deflect pressure away from them. It is a question of staying sharp. He says places are up for grabs all over he field.
“We want a competitive squad. If our management team was selecting the same 15 every time, you are not developing your squad. You asked was it an aspiration to win a Leinster title. It wasn’t. It was to develop footballers. We have 32 in a squad. We will have to improve and bring our best performance. We will find then whether it is good enough or not.”