“He’s not good enough. You may take him back to Naas, that’s his standard. He’s too slow …” A quote on the back cover of Geordan Murphy’s autobiography, The Outsider, writes Liam Godinho.
Seven English Premiership medals, two Heineken Cup titles and one Grand Slam Six Nations Championship later, Murphy was back in Naas to sign copies of The Outsider in Barker and Jones.
Unlike most Ireland rugby players, Naas native Murphy did not make his breakthrough from one of the home provinces, instead signing for Leicester Tigers directly finishing his schooling at Newbridge College.
“Throughout my career there were a fair few obstacles,” he told the Leinster Leader. “When I started off I didn’t get picked for any of the Leinster teams. I didn’t really get much recognition when I was at school. I was forced to move to England to play so I was an outsider from the very beginning.”
Murphy has spent his entire career at Leicester and has been the official club captain since the 2009/10 season. But moving to an Ireland team was always a possibility.
“There were a few times when I discussed contracts with the provinces. I think only once with Leinster; I discussed with Munster and Ulster a couple of times. But I was enjoying my rugby and things were going quite well in England and I thought I’d stay over there and make a go of it.”
Now 34, Murphy’s current contract expires at the end of this season. Recently, he suggested that he might hang up his boots at the end of it. However, he revealed that he is in no hurry to do so, saying retirement is only a possibility.
“I’m in talks with Leicester at the minute about playing for another year there so if my body’s good and I feel fresh, then definitely I’ll play another year.”
His body has not always been kind to him. His career has been marked by a number of injury setbacks, most notably the horrendous leg break in Ireland’s final warm up game ahead of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. But he has bounced back every time. Ultimately though, he believes his body will tell him when the time is right to quit.
“I think it’s really just your body. If you feel sore and you’re not enjoying it, then it’s time to go. It certainly is a young man’s sport. But we’re looked after very well at the moment, all the care we get off the field, all the physio and all the training we do has definitely improved over the years.”
Although he has had to struggle at times, Murphy retains a positive attitude towards his career.
“You have to look back with great memories. I’ve so many good memories. Obviously there’s frustrating times – some of those are touched on in the book – times where you don’t get picked or you get injured. That is frustrating. But you need the bad to appreciate the good.”
And Murphy has experienced more of “the good” than most.
“There’s so many highlights. Your first cap is obviously huge. Playing for the Barbarians and Lions was massive. Winning trophies with Leicester was great. Winning the Grand Slam with Ireland was unbelievable. Every trophy is special in its own right.”
His experience in the Ireland team was not always a positive one, particularly under Eddie O’Sullivan, with whom he had an infamously poor working relationship. But overall he remains upbeat about his international career.
“I still played 72 times for Ireland even with a couple of injuries that made me miss quite a few more games. I had a hamstring tear, a shoulder dislocation, the badly broken leg and there’s a lot of caps there. I really enjoyed every one of my Ireland caps.
“On occasions it was frustrating in that sometimes I had to play – which I thought was out of position – on the wing so I would have preferred to play more at fullback. But that’s just life. You don’t ever turn down an international cap. You just make the best of whatever situation you’re in.”