From oval ball to round ball

Championship Special: Versatile Róisín is fully focused on provincial quest

Dean Goodison

Róisín Murphy scoring a try for Gorey in the Leinster League Women's Division 3 rugby final against Barnhall in Donnybrook in April, 2016
Róisín Murphy scoring a try for Gorey in the Leinster League Women's Division 3 rugby final against Barnhall in Donnybrook in April, 2016
A dejected Róisín Murphy after Wexford lost the replayed National League Division 3 final to Tipperary

There's a fluidity in movement within this Wexford team that, when they are really motoring, is a joy to watch.

Everyone knows their job, everyone knows what's expected of them. Despite the team ethos, there will always be idiosyncrasies. Individuality is still important.

For example, centre-forward Caitríona Murray looks like a human roller-coaster as she takes on defenders, swaying left and right at inconceivable angles without ever losing balance or breaking stride, the ball stuck to her like it's on a string.

Then you have Niamh Mernagh, who always looks wrecked but just keeps tackling, keeps tracking her player. On the other side of that is Clara Donnelly, up and down the field, one minute taking a shot at goal and the next back tackling with hardly a deep breath taken.

Róisín Murphy is another player with an individual streak. Slightly different than the way Marica Cullen just goes through people, Murphy spots the smallest of gaps, holds the ball tight and drives on. There are no prizes for guessing that she's the most talented rugby player in the squad.

In fact, Murphy proved to be such a revelation on the rugby field for Gorey that she quickly earned a call-up to the Irish international sevens side in 2016, playing and winning the prestigious Amsterdam tournament.

'Last year the sevens was something that came completely out of the blue for me,' she explained. 'I started playing rugby with Gorey and ended up getting a call-up. I went with the sevens, trained with the sevens and also played football but really it was too much to try and balance the two.

'This year I stepped back from the rugby altogether. I played club rugby up until Christmas but then that was it for this year. It's a massive commitment, the rugby was absolutely amazing but it's something that I would have had to commit to full-time to do properly.'

Despite stepping away from the game, the skills picked up with the oval ball have stood to the Shelmalier clubwoman who hails from deep in Buffers Alley territory. It's clear that what Murphy learned along the way has had quite the impact on her on the football field.

'Yeah definitely, I guess the strength and power,' she said. 'It's slightly different as well, it's just your reading of the game. For the gameplan we play with football this year, it's all off the shoulder and that ties in very nicely with rugby.'

Now fully concentrating on the round ball, Murphy has been instrumental in her side's excellent form this season. Despite not getting over the line to take the title, she's somewhat content with how the league went.

'Overall I think we had quite a good league and again it's all about progression. We sat in a room last November with Anthony (Masterson) and said that we wanted to win a league final,' she remembered.

'We pushed it, we really pushed it this year but I was very disappointed not to come out on the right side, especially the second day. I think if you ask any player in our squad if they want another crack at Tipperary, could we beat them, then the answer would be "yes".'

'Tipperary were miles ahead of us on paper, according to everyone and all the experts, but we knew ourselves and from last year as well that they really weren't. They've a couple of good players and if we can manage to control them I think we would absolutely beat Tipperary.'

The impressive thing about Wexford this year was how quickly they put that league final loss in the rearview mirror, without ever forgetting the pain it caused. It's left Murphy and her team-mates hungry for success heading into the Meath game this weekend.

'It's what we're working for, it's what we're here for, it's what we're training since November for,' she explained.

'To get a bit of silverware at the end of all that effort is what we're striving for. Really, to put Wexford football back on the map and say "yes, here we are and we are good enough", regardless of who writes us off.

'All these teams that we are so close to and they're rated so far above us, you know, why? We are one of the best teams and I'd love the opportunity Sunday to just show everyone that we are.

'I believe we can go the whole way. Our approach the whole of this year, from the first game against Tipperary,

'it's been one game at a time. What has been ahead of us is what we focused on.

'I'm not looking past Meath, I mean, this team has so much potential, there's so much heart and the workrate is unbelievable, so one game at a time, but maybe we can go all the way.'

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