THE FIRST TIME Cork defender Brian Murphy faced Waterford in the championship, the teams played out one of the greatest Munster hurling finals in living memory.
John Mullane was sent off for the Déise in Thurles but goals from Paul Flynn and Dan Shanahan helped the underdogs to what was their seventh provincial crown and an emotional victory. On Sunday, on the same piece of real estate at Semple Stadium, the Bride Rovers man will be among the elder statesmen in a young Cork side; but the stakes are no less high.
“That was the first time I played against them,” Murphy recalls of the Munster decider eight years ago. “It was one of the highest-intensity games I ever played in. The heat that day alone was going to be energy-sapping, never mind the amount of running involved. There hasn’t been too many games with that much running since, thank God.
“We played them twice in 2005, in 2006, twice in 2007, twice in 2010 . . . there have been a lot of games and unfortunately we’ve come out on the wrong side in recent years. We wouldn’t be dwelling too much on that. We have a very different team now compared to a few years ago, a lot of the younger lads wouldn’t have even played against them. We can’t forget that when it comes to preparing for the game. Not only have some of the lads probably never played against Waterford, some of them might be even too young to have seen the 2004 final, for instance.”
Darren Sweetnam is one of the faces manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy has introduced to the hurling public this year. But the fact that he may have been too young to attend that classic in ’04, drives home to Murphy that the clock is ticking.
“When you’re 21, 22, and people are telling you, ‘make the most of it, it won’t last that long’, at the back of your mind you’re probably laughing at them. But I’m hitting the 30 mark now and this year, next year — that’s probably the end of the road for me. I’ve to try to make the most of it and thank God we’ve a good crop of young lads coming through who may be putting us in a better position than the one we’ve been in for the last few years.
“We have to see what happens against Waterford. They’ve got an experienced team and we’re no fools, we don’t think that it’s going to be easy. They’ll be firm favourites on the day but we’ll just have to take it on.”
And with the increased mileage on the clock, comes more responsibility for Murphy as he fills the role of veteran defender in front of Anthony Nash, alongside the likes of Stephen McDonnell and Damien Cahalane.
“To be honest, as soon as the ball is thrown in you could be playing alongside Diarmuid O’Sullivan or Wayne Sherlock or whoever. You don’t dwell on it, you get on with it. In fairness to Damien, the last day he performed very well and got on with it. When it comes to looking at the games all the backs would have to say that there are things we need to improve on.
“At training, though, the management has us working on those things, and the big thing is not to get overawed on big occasions, to take it in stride.”