Brian Cody will have to plan for Kilkenny’s National League campaign in 2020 without Lieutenant Paul Murphy who is preparing for his second peacekeeping tour to Lebanon.
The four-time All-Ireland winner will travel out later this month, alongside teammate Richie Ruth, and is expected to return to Ireland during the first week of May when Kilkenny are set to face Dublin in their Leinster championship opener in Parnell Park.
This is Murphy’s second trip to Lebanon while Cody is no stranger to having to manage overseas trips given the number of Kilkenny hurlers involved in the Defence Forces.
“Ah Brian’s very understanding, I’m not the first person to head away on an army tour”, said Murphy at the launch of the Super 11’s jersey.
“Eoin Larkin went away to Kosovo in 2007/08 and he came back and won Hurler of the Year so that’s what we have to aim for when you get back from overseas is Hurler of the Year!”
In November, I will deploy with @defenceforces as part of the 115th Infantry Battalion UNIFIL (Lebanon). During that time, I hope to show the incredible work carried out by Irish troops as we continue over 60 years of unbroken service to peace around the world. 🇮🇪☘ pic.twitter.com/G7nedxWFeE
— Paul Murphy (@PaulMurphykk) October 10, 2019
This time two year’s ago, Murphy was preparing for his first trip to Lebanon, however, he explained that his day-to-day role will be much different this time around.
“The last day I was out there, I was an APC (armoured personnel carrier) Commander so I was with the armoured car. We’d go on patrol every day, one day you could be on four patrols a day, you’d be driving around the area, you’re going to the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, you’re patrolling within towns and so on.
“The following day you could be resting from duty so you actually have a bit of downtime, a bit of time to rest up, go get a bit of training done, whatever it is.
“Then on the weekends, you have the Sunday off and we used to organise hurling training for a Sunday and everyone from the priest with the unit up to the battalion commander used to go down and play a bit of hurling, regardless of what level you were at.
“Depending on my day this time will be very much in an office. I’ll be dealing with operations this time, I won’t be going patrolling so my job compared to the fella beside me could be something completely different.
“This time it’ll be a lot more office-based, probably a lot more structured but I’ll be out and about patrolling the odd time.
For many, the thought of spending Christmas in a conflict zone would be daunting but while Murphy admitted that it was “tough”, he is looking forward to the experience having thoroughly enjoyed his first tour.
“Of course, it’s tough being away from family. I don’t have kids and obviously people with kids will find that a little bit tougher. Being away for Christmas can be tough.
“When I get out there, I really enjoy my training out there. The strength and conditioning staff will be onto you the whole time making sure you’re tipping away. I enjoy that, I enjoy my downtime when I get to watch a few series on Netflix.
“I think if you have a plan when you go out there, ‘OK, I’m going to use this to my benefit, I’m going to get fit’, or some people use it to learn a language in their downtime. Some people actually do online courses when they’re not on patrol.”
As with most Kilkenny people, hurling is never far from his mind regardless of where in the world he is. The 30-year-old will train as agreed with the strength & conditioning coaches in order to maintain his fitness for his championship return.
On top of that, hurling is a social outlet for the but rivalries will be renewed when they sit down to watch the National League together at the beginning of next year.
“We have a lot of Wexford and Cork lads this time. So word will always get around, ‘This fella has it on his mobile and he’s going to Chromecast it onto a television somewhere.’ A heap of lads will be huddled around and lads will be hitting each other digs and stuff, so it’s good craic from that point of view.
When Kilkenny matches are going on, lads will be asking you about ‘what’s this or that like’. I found myself getting nervous watching matches because you’re still in that buzz of you know what the boys are doing and you know the mindset going into a match. Of course I’ll watch them.
“You’ll have the matches penned off when they’re going to be on. If it’s a Saturday evening or Sunday match that you have a bit of free time to watch it because you’re a supporter as much as anything as much as a player.”
However, just because he sits down to watch every Kilkenny game while away, does not necessarily mean that he enjoys the experience.
“I’m actually a very bad spectator to be honest!
“What I would say is it’s like when a player is on the bench, you feel like you want to get out there and play. So very much when you’re watching it you feel like you’re on the bench, that you can’t get onto the pitch. I don’t find it great.
“I thought that because I’m not involved in matches there would be no morning nerves but I found the mornings that I knew there was a league match on, that I actually found those nerves were there, it’s like my body thought I was going to play a match. Not a great spectator but I have to watch it because I want to see what’s happening and how the lads are going really.”
Wexford’s Lee Chin, Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes, Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy and Tipperary’s Barry Heffernan were at Aer Lingus Hangar 6 at Dublin Airport this morning where Aer Lingus, in partnership with the GAA & GPA, unveiled a one-of-a-kind customised playing kit for the New York Hurling Classic which takes place at Citi Field in New York on November 16th.
Aer Lingus will once again be the Official Airline of the event and will be responsible for flying the four teams to New York. Aer Lingus is Ireland’s only 4-Star airline and has been involved in the Hurling Classic on three previous occasions where it has been played at Fenway Park in 2015, 2017 & 2018.