40 years a-growing for Jimmy Barry Murphy

Jimmy Barry Murphy knows that Clare’s young guns will be capable of anything on Sunday, because he was that same cannon fire 40 years ago – the tearaway forward who was capable of anything on his All-Ireland debut, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.

WHAT do you remember the most about the day a superstar was born, bolting across the Croke Park landscape like a shooting star, only that 40 years later he’s still burning brightly.
The haircut, that was more Sid Vicious than Sean Ó Siocháin! The goals that together with Liam Sammon’s penalty miss the following year against the Dubs consigned the Tribe to another quarter of a century of misery!
Or was it the jersey pull that tested the fibre of his O’Neills (it was a few years before the ‘three stripes affair’ when the Rebels wore Adidas geansaís) that only gave him the ballast to pirouette and blast to the rigging of the Hill 16 goal.
Jimmy Barry Murphy is too modest to turn back the clock and bring ‘Reeling in the Years’ on the road to Páirc Uí Rinn, but still he smiles at the memory of the first track from his All-Ireland final back catalogue, before giving the JBM of that September Sunday in 1973 a modern twist and context.
“It’s the youth,” he says, which might explain the Sid Vicious over Seán Ó Siocháin, but also what it brings to any team. “When you’re young you play without inhibition. You have a freedom and you’re carefree, with that attitude that it’s another game. It’s a lifetime ago, but that’s the way I was and both sides have that going into this game. The youth is there and players going out in the frame of mind could make for a great game. As you get older you feel the pressure more certainly, but Clare and Cork won’t have that with the youth that’s there.”
Back to 1973 – JBM is 19 and fires the Rebels to a first All-Ireland football title in 28 years, while 40 years later he’s heading back to Croke Park for what will be his tenth All-Ireland final.
“It’s still the same as it was back then,” he says. “All-Irelands are equally hard to win, whether it’s your first like it was all those years ago or now. It doesn’t get any easier.
“You always dream of All-Irelands. That’s always the goal with a team. When you’re put in charge of a team you want to do as best you can and want to be the best. That’s winning the All-Ireland.
“The fact that in the first year back we got to a semi-final, we want to go one better than that. It’s not easy to do that. It’s very hard to reach that, but the fact that we’re there is great and it’s all about working to try and get the best out of the lads on the day. That’s what All-Ireland’s are about, trying to go out and produce the best you possibly can.”
Cork’s season, he admits, has blown hot and cold. National League relegation, the championship rebirth against Clare, the Munster final letdown before another resurrection against Kilkenny and Dublin.
“It [National League] was disappointing but we felt that we were competing. We were unlucky to be relegated but we played very well overall, but after that we prepared brilliantly for championship and getting over Clare was a great boost because we were back in an All-Ireland Quarter-Final and we could plan ahead from there.
“The Kilkenny game in Thurles was a big boost to us. Once we got over them it was a big feather in our cap and a boost to the fellas’ confidence. We kicked on from that and we were looking forward to an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin – the Kilkenny game the key to the whole thing.”
Now it’s the day Jimmy Barry Murphy knows best – All-Ireland final day. He won six medals on the field and then guided the Rebels on the line to victory over Kilkenny in 1999 – now to see if his All-Ireland number is up again and an eight victory all those 40 years after his first.
“It will take a massive performance because Clare are a brilliant team. Davy Fitzgerald has done a brilliant job with Clare, both tactically and in his preparation for the team and the way the young players have played for him.
“The win against Clare in the Munster semi-final means nothing, because an All-Ireland final is a unique occasion in itself. What has happened before won’t have any great relevance.
“I think we can win if we play to our best. Obviously Clare will be thinking the same but I’m hoping that we can just edge it. A one point victory like 1999 will do.”
If it happens, Jimmy Barry Murphy will party like it’s 1999 all over again.


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