Brendan Murphy: "For me, this is the right time to go"

Brendan Murphy Carlow GAA Footballer


I love playing for Carlow, and I don't think anyone who knows me would say otherwise. You give so much to the game and then when you want to take some time for yourself, you hope that people understand. We’re not permanently tied to our county teams, and I think people forget that sometimes

I'm going to turn 30 next year, I’ll be getting married to my fiancé Kate, I’m trying to work overtime for that reason, and this summer is maybe our last real chance to get away. This is right for us, and it’s a really positive thing.

At the same time, it’s probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life since walking away from Aussie Rules all those years ago. It’s not as if it was a spur-of-the-moment thing either — we’ve been mulling over it since February. I told manager Turlough O’Brien and Steven Poacher back then, and of how I was a bit fatigued. Heading away is all about getting a break, and recharging the batteries. It’s a chance to play some ball in Boston, and do some traveling. After that, it’s football, career, and home life.

Why fatigued, you might ask? Well, one weekend last year summed it all up. I love my job as a Garda in Clondalkin station, but juggling shift work and inter-county commitments can be a challenge. So it was a Saturday pre-championship, and we were playing Armagh in a challenge match. I was on night shifts though, which complicated matters.

So, here’s how it played out. I started my shift on Friday at 9:00 pm, and luckily my very understanding boss allowed me to go for a quick sleep at 5:30 am before finishing at 7:00 am. I then made my way over to the Red Cow Roundabout, where I was collected by the Carlow team bus at 7:30 am to head to Armagh. Once the game was done, I went back down from Armagh to Clondalkin, where I got in a 40-minute nap before beginning another 9:00 pm to 7:00 am shift. Finally, I went to bed at 8:00 am on Sunday morning after spinning home to Carlow.

Now, it was tough, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. We’ve had some great occasions in Carlow: giving Dublin a good game in last year’s championship, and finally winning promotion from Division 4 of the league this year. There’s a reason you put so much into it.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. We train on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the county team, but if I have to work, I will make up a session on my own time. There are times when I’ll be at the gym at 3:00 or 4:00 am on the rowing machine or the bike.

Of course, I have a football career, but I have ambitions in my job too, and that needs attention if I’m to get where I want to go. It’s the same for Kate. Which, once again, brings me to why it makes so much sense for us to head away now, and then put my head down with career and the sport I love after that. It wasn’t an easy choice to make.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have been able to play this weekend against Louth due to injury. When we were training on the Thursday before the league final against Laois, I went to step off my left and felt a pop in my right hip — it was as if someone shot me. I got an injection and played in the game, but I didn’t play well. I probably shouldn’t have togged, and I’m not fully right from it yet.

I don’t think I ever put in as much effort as I did this year, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider staying on. We’d spent so many years trying to get promoted and get to Croke Park, so when we did, it made it tougher. Kate even said, “stay if you want” and all of these factors are why it was harder than leaving the AFL.

I don’t head out until June 30th, but the sanctioning rule in the USA means that I would be ineligible there if I lined out for Carlow. It’s a rule I don’t agree with, but that's the way it is. It would break my heart to watch the game against Louth on Sunday in O’Moore Park so that I won’t be there. I’ll probably get into the car and park up somewhere quiet, and listen to it on the radio. Better to be listening to the lads going to war while I’m on my own, rather than bumping into someone telling me I should be out there. It will be hard enough without that. I’ll be away at a friend’s wedding too, which will help distract me.

I intend to play for Rathvilly once I get home, and hopefully, Turlough and the boys will be happy for me to rejoin the panel for next year. As I said, I love football, and I’ll combine it with my job for as long as I can. Hopefully, people will understand where I’m coming from, that life isn’t simple, and you can’t always put what is effectively a hobby before everything else.

You can love football, love your career, and then also want to enjoy your life and the people in it.  For me, this is the right time to go.

Brendan was in conversation with Shane Stapleton