JUST FIVE months since making his first start for Munster, Limerick rugby player Conor Murray is preparing to jet off to New Zealand next Tuesday, bound for the Rugby World Cup with his national team.
The 22-year old’s selection ahead of fellow Munsterman Tomas O’Leary sent shockwaves through Irish rugby on Monday, but his family in Patrickswell and fellow club members in Garryowen were not surprised.
Conor’s selection has turned the Murray household upside down this week, with well-wishers calling by and ringing his parents, Gerry and Barbara and sisters Sarah, 25 and Aisling, 18, to congratulate them. But the newest Irish scrum-half was not the complete centre of attention this Wednesday, as sister Aisling prepared for her debs with Laurel Hill.
“There is great excitement in the house in the last few days, the phone has been ringing constantly, my phone bill will be unbelievable because you have to reply to everyone, but it is great,” said dad Gerry, a former cameraman on the Tour de France, while mum Barbara was capped for her country before her son, playing squash for Ireland.
“We are absolutely delighted, we have seen him go through the hard work over the last few years, he served his time as they say in his apprenticeship. We are over the moon. I think it is only around six months since he made his debut, but you have to take your chance and he took it with both hands.”
Conor rang his parents on Sunday to tell them he had been selected, thereby also filling his grandfather, Con Roche, with pride. Roche, a Garryowen legend who won a Munster Senior Cup medal with the club in 1947, as well playing a starring role for Munster in a famous battle with Australia in 1948, pulling off a famous tackle in the match in Cork, had a final trial for Ireland but was not capped.
“There has always been a connection there, Con was a great player in his day. He is thrilled and is living life through the rugby – this is a huge boost,” said Gerry.
“It was a big night when Munster played Australia in Thomond Park, that awful stormy night. Con had played against Australia in Cork, so that was a huge connection there, they were narrowly beaten that night, but it is coming right around now,” he added.
Conor parents made the trip to Bordeaux recently at short notice to see the former St Munchin’s College student make his debut for Ireland, and fellow Limerick man Eoin Reddan, whose family live less than a mile from the Murray home in Patrickswell, handed over his own jersey to his understudy that night.
“The Reddans are only up the road. Eoin was the number nine in Bordeaux when Conor came on with 20 minutes to go and he actually gave Conor his number nine jersey afterward as a souvenir,” said Gerry. “Eoin is a lovely fella as well, absolutely, that is the comradeship they have. All of the lads look after each other, Conor roomed with Paul O’Connell in Bordeaux, probably deliberately, to put them together and get the benefit of Paul’s experience. I have seen them in action, they are just one big family.”
The man himself was taking things in his stride this week, noting with characteristic understatement that his meteoric career rise had “happened a bit quicker than expected”.
“I live with a couple of other Munster lads and they were telling me to get excited and I hadn’t realised it,” said Conor of his housemates, who include fellow Munster men Mike Sherry and Declan Cusack. “But I’m sure in the next couple of days it’ll start coming together and I’ll understand how big it is,” he added.
Garryowen President Eoghan Prendergast paid tribute to Murray upon hearing of his selection.
“We are absolutely thrilled and I think it is a very well deserved selection,” said Eoghan.
“For himself and his family it is fantastic, he has Garryowen blood running through him, Con was a very famous player and played as a back row forward, which is a bit like the way Conor plays as well, which is why he was selected also - as well as his talent, he has no fear going into situations and I know Kidney likes a physical scrum half.”
He added: “He is a lovely youngfella and we are delighted for him and his family. We knew when he got exposure to that level of the game that he would blossom and he has the temperament for it as well”.