Interviews with GAA stars in November usually follow a pattern; ‘How do you assess the season?’ ‘Where must you improve next year?’ ‘What will be different?’
But pre-season training with Kilkenny is far from the mind of four-time All-Star Paul Murphy right now. For amateur, albeit elite athletes, work must come first.
“I’m going to Lebanon again,” explained the army officer.
“I’ll be going Monday week and there’s no set date for when we return but it will be early May when we’ll be returning.”
In November, I will deploy with @defenceforces as part of the 115th Infantry Battalion UNIFIL (Lebanon). During that time, I hope to show the incredible work carried out by Irish troops as we continue over 60 years of unbroken service to peace around the world. 🇮🇪☘ pic.twitter.com/G7nedxWFeE
— Paul Murphy (@PaulMurphykk) October 10, 2019
Not quite the usual preparation for an intercounty season.
“Brian [Cody] is very understanding,” Murphy noted.
“That’s just the nature of it. We’re not professional.
“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!”
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Being on the job in Lebanon represents quite the change of scenery.
“The last [time] I was out there, I was an APC Commander so I was with the armoured car,” he recounted. “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.
“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… religiously, culturally, there’s lots of different aspects going on.
“In Lebanon, there’s big protests at the moment, more so aimed at government level so you have to keep your eye on what’s going on there. 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.
“You’re just monitoring activities. Is 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.
“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.”
Not that hurling can be ignored.
He continued: “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.”
Being commissioned to Lebanon can be tolling, but it’s a prospect the Danesfort man is looking forward to, on his second trip there.
“I actually quite enjoy going over there,” he explained. “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 more tough. Being away for Christmas can be tough.
“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 down time then when I get to watch a few series on Netflix.
“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 down time. Some people actually do online courses when they’re not on patrol.
“It can be tough, if there’s stuff going on at home it’s a tough place to be. Thankfully I’m in a fortunate position that everything is good I’m looking forward to going.”
These duties will all be carried out while the Cats engage in their National League campaign, and Murphy is set to return just in time for the Nore-siders championship opener in Parnell Park next May.
As Kilkenny enter battle in the National League, Murphy will be pucking every ball with them, watching from afar.
“I’m actually a very bad spectator to be honest,” he laughed.
“It’s like when a player is on the bench, you feel like you want to get out there and play. So very much when you’re watching it, you feel like you’re on the bench, that you can’t get onto the pitch. I don’t find it great.
“I thought that because I’m not involved in matches there would be no morning nerves, but I found the mornings that I knew there was a league match on, that I actually found those nerves were there, it’s like my body thought I was going to play a match!”
All he can do from afar is keep up his individual training, hoping to be in peak condition for the Leinster Championship upon his return.
“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,” he said.
“There’s a small enough window for me coming back to get into the team but I’ll be happy to perform as a sub, on a panel, whatever it is as long as the best team is going out on each day. And if the best team means that I manage to get my place back, brilliant. But the best team has to play really.
“But the way I see it is if you had a player injured for the league and he was coming back just in time for the championship – it’s very similar. Except we’re coming back in the scenario that we’ll be fully fit and we’re ready to go, it’s just a matter of how the boys see us in terms of hurling-wise, are we ready to go?”
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