September 14, 2019
Following a pulsating opening 35 minutes, Dublin and Kerry, at 0-10 apiece, look poised to repeat the drama of their drawn All-Ireland final just two weeks earlier.
Kerry had finished the half strong while all 10 of Dublin’s points came from open play. The tension was palpable and there was a feeling that this was to go right down to the wire.
As the sides emerged for the second half, Jerry Grogan [Croke Park stadium announcer] broke the news that Diarmuid Connolly was to be introduced to the action.
A tumultuous 18 months had ended on the eve of the Super 8s when Jim Gavin announced that the St. Vincent’s man had returned to the squad. Connolly played in the drawn All-Ireland, however, his 68th-minute introduction was overshadowed by a pot-shot attempt [one that very few, but he, could execute] near the death that never looked like going over.
This time around, the introduction felt like it could be Connolly’s moment. In the end, it wasn’t Connolly’s moment. Nor Mannion’s, Kilkenny’s, O’Callaghan’s or any of the other great Dublin forwards that we’ve become accustomed to seeing break hearts over the past decade.
No, it was to be the smallest man on the pitch who left the biggest of legacies on that mid-September evening.
With his first-ever senior championship goal, the diminutive wing-back created a moment that will stand the test of time.
Like Oisin McConville in 2002, Seamus Darby in 1982 or Mikey Sheehy in 1978, 50 years from now, when the 2019 All-Ireland football final is mentioned, Eoin Murchan’s name will forever be sung.
Fast forward nearly nine months and Murchan should be preparing for another tilt at the title, however, the coronavirus pandemic has put the 2020 All-Ireland series on the back burner, for now.
With a lack of action to look forward to, maybe he’s got the time to reflect on that moment, the historical nature of it and the fact that it will be attached to his name forever and a day.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as the Na Fianna man hasn’t even watched it back yet.
“I actually haven’t watched it back since we started back as a group. I would have seen it a couple of times a couple of days after the All-Ireland but it’s not something I’ve gone back to regularly.”
He continues by admitting that he finds it strange how much attention the goal seems to have got.
“I find it strange. Obviously the goal is a goal and it makes a bit of a difference, but I find it strange that the goal gets so much focus because there was so much else that happened and so much else that was as important that happened in the game.
“I actually think I was having a good enough game regardless of the goal so I found it a little bit strange there’s so much focus on the goal.”
Maybe he’s just being coy.
After all, it has become somewhat of a mantra for Dublin GAA throughout their decade of dominance.
When pressed on whether he appreciates the iconic nature of the goal and how it will be referenced for years to come, the Na Fianna defender claims that his family, as well as his teammates, would never allow a singular moment to go to his head.
“No, I wouldn’t be allowed at the moment both by my family and teammates.
“They wouldn’t allow that to be the case. Like, I’m still quite young. This will be my fourth championship and I would hope I have a lot more ahead of me and would be able to impact in more ways than one singular incident.
“So I haven’t really thought about it in that respect, I’m more focused on trying to improve myself and contribute something to the team so the team can do something.”
It’s a fair assessment given his young age and relative inexperience.
The Na Fianna man does admit, however, that in the future it will be something he looks back on.
“We’d be a very good group at connecting in with our past and understand the responsibility that comes with the jersey and the opportunity and how privileged we are to be in that position.
“So I’m more focused on trying to maybe leave the jersey in a better place, for the want of a better term, rather than focusing on a single incident or a single play.
“Maybe in the future, that’s something I’ll look back on, but for now, I’m more focused on trying to go out and enjoy my football, enjoy playing with my friends because that’s what I like to do and that’s what we do.”
Away from the football field, the entire world has been gripped in basketball fever following ‘The Last Dance‘ depicting Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls.
A keen basketball player in his youth, Murchan’s first national title came in 2014 when Belvedere College stunned defending champions St Malachy’s Belfast in the All-Ireland Schools U19 Championship final, the Dublin star credits the sport with having helped his hand-eye coordination and one on one defending.
Eoin Murchan, 23, of Belvedere College celebrates with his team-mates after beating St Malachy's Belfast, in the Basketball Ireland All-Ireland Schools U19 A Boys League Final in 2014.
Wonder what ever happened to him… pic.twitter.com/IF14axTlL4
— sportsfile (@sportsfile) September 19, 2019
A former rugby player with Clontarf as well, Murchan credits where he has gotten to today by trying his hand at a number of team sports.
“I played it with my local club, Tolka Rovers, and with my school as well. My first All-Ireland would have been with the basketball, we won the Under-19 Schools Championship.
“But to be honest I played every sport and they all had their benefits for football. I would have played rugby, basketball, tennis, swimming, hurling, Gaelic, I would have played everything and loved everything – particularly team sports would have been something I excelled in.
“I just find it strange at the moment the way people pick and choose sports because I’ve found myself that I’ve got lots of benefit from those sports. If you’re talking about basketball, it’s the hand-eye coordination and the defensive setups and even the individual one on one defence.”
With regards to ‘The Last Dance‘, its depiction of Jordan and the debate it has sparked around what is acceptable behaviour when leading a team, Murchan doesn’t buy into the notion that Jordan’s methods are a fireproof way of winning.
The swashbuckling wing-back struggles to compare it to Gaelic football because while one player can make a struggling team into champions in basketball, the same cannot be said for Gaelic football.
“First of all, I have watched The Last Dance and I’ve been absolutely gripped by it.
“I’m not sure if that style of leadership works in some situations and doesn’t in some others. We’re very much a player-led group, we hold each other to account as best we can. I’m not sure would it work, to be honest.
“I’m not sure it would work in any sort of team sport anyway. It works in basketball, it’s a much smaller team and personalities can dominate and there is one player who can really, really make all the difference in that situation.
“In basketball one player can totally change the fortunes of a team for the year. That’s not quite the case in Gaelic, there’s 15 players, usually, 21 will play on any given day and it takes a panel of 35 or so to go through a Championship so having one player who dominates in such a way I’m not sure would be feasible in Gaelic and I’m not sure it’s what we would want to be honest.
“We feel our style of leadership works, I’ve never really thought about the way Jordan does it. I’m not sure that would work in many instances.”