ALAN MURPHY “This season I want to realise my potential, show people what I can do.”
Back in business
ALAN MURPHY leans forward in his seat and ponders the question. He repeats it to himself slowly and gathers his thoughts. So what is the most important thing he has learned in his last eight years in the League of Ireland?
“Never get complacent because that’s what will finish you,” he decides. “I’ve been in dressing-rooms where people got complacent and it can rub off on you. I would regard myself as a strong character but there have been days when I’ve felt myself leaning towards it. But you have to stay focussed because this is a cut-throat business.
“I learned that lesson in Derry as did a lot of guys. You’ll get your chance but you tend not to get two chances. If the points aren’t coming in there will be a finger pointed at someone, a manager or players.
“The key is that you keep your own house in order while still making sure that the team is successful. Everyone has to pull together but at times it’s cut-throat.”
Murphy is engaging company. He is 25 now and next Monday morning begins his ninth pre-season training camp in the League of Ireland. The last eight years have been a blur of games, goals and grounds.
But that is only half the story.
This year there will be two sides to Alan Murphy. He may have made his name from his goals with Galway Utd and Derry City but he intends to make his life away from the roar of the madding crowd. Right now he is working on two careers.
In the short-term that will mean early starts and late finishes as he balances training and games with Galway Utd and work as a Mortgage Executive with EBS na Coiribe. For the next four weeks he will train twice a day with Galway Utd and also squeeze in meetings and appointments. He will eat breakfast in his home, lunch with his team-mates and his tea on the road. “I’ll be taking plenty of vitamins and supplements,” he smiles.
SITTING in a Galway restaurant Alan Murphy looks like any other business man. He is wearing the standard crisp white shirt and pin-stripe suit and is relaxed as he runs through his itinerary for the coming month.
He may be getting paid to play soccer but, more importantly, he enjoys. Loves it. Can’t wait for it to start.
“I’m playing a sport that I love playing and I’m fortunate enough to be paid for it,” he says.
“This season I want to realise my potential. That might sound selfish but everyone thinks about how they are performing within a unit. I want to show people what I can do and a direct result of that will be that Galway do well.
“My aim this season is to be a more rounded player. I’m probably one of the most senior players now and am probably looking at a midfield role. Hopefully I’ll get the assists and someone else will get the goals.”
Next week it all begins again for the Ballinrobe native. He is looking forward to working hard and at this moment the year is pregnant with promise.
Murphy is much older and wiser now than the fresh-faced teenager that strode onto Terryland Park for the first time in 1999. He spent five years with Galway Utd and scored a plethora of goals before moving to Derry City for two seasons. Last year brought him back to Galway but the headlines – and the trademark goals and celebrations – were all too rare.
Why? He has his own theories and starts at the beginning.
“The last year I was in Galway I had a brilliant season in the First Division. I scored 25 goals and decided that the best thing for me was to go to Derry and give myself a new challenge in the Premier Division.
“The first year in Derry I commuted for matches. I was training myself in Galway, was working and also studying. I got my Law Degree but, in hindsight, training in Galway and travelling to Derry for games probably wasn’t the best idea in the world.
“The second year Stephen Kenny came in and brought the whole thing to a new level in terms of professionalism. I moved up to Derry, trained every day, and really enjoyed it. I was in the best shape of my life. “The year went well, we won the League Cup [where he scored a sensational goal] and almost won the League.
“We were going to be in Europe the following year and I was offered a two year full-time contract. But I decided it wasn’t for me.
“I had gone to college for four years, got two degrees and done nothing with them. I wanted to have a career after football so I decided to come home and build a life for myself on and off the pitch.
“Last season was a bad season for me by my own standards. You can blame it on dropping down to the First Division, on going back to part-time…I don’t. I blame myself. I was working, establishing a career, and there was a lot going on in my life. But it’s a clean slate now again and there’s no point being negative.
“A lot of the supporters probably looked at me last year and thought, ‘Jeez he’s gone back a lot since the time when he banged in all those goals’.
“I’d disagree to be honest, I feel it was a blip. I’m looking forward to playing in the Premier again. Hopefully it will suit me better, playing more football.”
FOOTBALL has been part of Alan Murphy’s life since his days at school in Cloonliffen. His skills were honed further with Ballinrobe Town down The Green and now he can be seen in newspapers and on television.
He’s come a long way and it’s all been an education. In the dressing-room of a League of Ireland club you have to learn fast.
“Once money is introduced into anything there’s an element of greed and complacency,” he explains. “Definitely for some people that ‘bite’ goes out of it. There are probably three or four different category of soccer player. There are the guys that are lucky to be there, the players that are very good and deserve to get what they’re getting, the guys that deserve to be there but have nothing to fall back on, and the players that are getting paid but also have a few other strings to their bow.
“I would hope I’m in the last category. You get a contract for a year and you’re only as good as your last one. I’ll be fighting for another contract next year and I’m under no illusions about that. That’s the reality.”
In his spare time Murphy watches the English Premiership, La Liga, Serie A, anything that involves a ball. He keeps an eye out for movement, technique, the little things.
Barcelona are the team he takes particular interest in and he admits he would pay to watch Kevin Doyle of Reading.
“When Doyle went to England he probably wasn’t in the top ten in Ireland but to see him now playing in the Premiership would give me a lot of confidence,” he says by way of explanation.
Time is money and an appointment with a client is fast approaching so Alan Murphy prepares to take his leave. We ponder the return of Premier Division soccer to Galway and the reporter asks what people can expect.
“Well on my part I can offer people honesty. I’ll be doing everything to get the best out of myself. There will be a lot of big teams coming to Terryland this year and hopefully some great nights.”
And what about that first goal celebration? His face creases into a smile. “I definitely won’t be going back to taking my shirt off and swinging it over my head. But I might do something for the Mayo fans.”
Business as usual.