“Vinnie’s going to get you, Vinnie’s going to get you.”
Vinnie Murphy recounts a tale of leaving a Kerry nightclub back in the early 2000s shortly after his second retirement from inter-county football.
He travelled south to play in the famous Páidí Ó Sé tournament and after being hammered by hosts, An Ghaeltacht, they flocked to one of the many watering holes in Dingle.
“I suppose the greatest one for me was a couple of years after I played I took a team to the Páidí Ó Sé tournament and at the end of the Saturday, a bunch of us were in a nightclub, the likes of Darragh Ó Sé and few of the lads.” Murphy told Pundit Arena.
“We were coming out into the square and walking back up to the hotel we were staying in, next thing there’s choruses of ‘Vinnie’s going to get you’ and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and you’re going ‘I’m with a fella (sic) who’s won a couple of All-Irelands and they are coming at me’ but to hear that was fantastic.”
It’s no surprise when you think about it. Despite spending ten seasons representing the Dublin footballers, Murphy had a deep love affair with the Kingdom that went back to his time playing with Kerins O’Rahillys for three years in the late nineties.
It was a highly fruitful period in the career of Murphy albeit it came at a time when he was arguably at his lowest, having been unceremoniously dropped from the Dublin panel when really he should have been entering his prime years.
Despite the long-standing rivalry between the two counties, Murphy would come to be highly regarded throughout the Kingdom and looking back he knows he owes the people of Kerry a huge debt of gratitude for taking him in.
“I suppose if I hadn’t have gone down to Kerry, God knows where I would have been at that time. Emotionally, I wouldn’t have been great so I have a lot to thank for what happened in Kerry and the people in Kerry in that they probably at the time wouldn’t have seen me stuck.
“I suppose it renewed my love for the game again and Kerry people, they hold their football in high regard. It’s like many places, football, religion and education; I wasn’t the most religious and I wasn’t the most educated but I could play football so I won lots of them over. Not all of them but I would’ve won a fair few of them over with my football. I probably played the best football I ever played down there for those three or four years.”
He did more than just play football in the Kingdom. It’s well documented that Murphy was known more for his exploits on the hurling field growing up.
During his stint in the Kingdom, Kerry hurling was in turmoil and they turned to Murphy for help. He accepted the call and while he admits it was an experience, it’s not something he would do again. A traditionalist at heart, Murphy feels he cheapened both the Kerry and Dublin jersey.
“Kerry hurling is a strange thing, there are parts of Kerry where football doesn’t raise its ugly head really, it’s pure hurling country. There was a bit of infighting between the county board and a lot of clubs who then hadn’t made their players available to the manager.
“I was asked would I come down as a favour and of course you are going to go. I played one game against Cork and that was it.
“But I’ve often said this, it felt very strange putting on a Kerry jersey and I cheapened the Dublin jersey by playing but I cheapened the Kerry jersey also. I’d be very much a traditionalist and I understand Kerry’s position of only playing their own players but look it was an experience. Would I do it again? No, but you do things at the time and you don’t think about the consequences.”
Just how did he find himself playing his club football in Kerry and representing the county on the hurling field?
Murphy was called into the Dublin set-up in 1988 at just 18-years-old. The first act of his Dublin career saw him collect four Leinster medals, an All-Star and an All-Ireland. However, he admits to having mixed feelings over that win in 1995 having only played a bit part role.
“I’ve mixed feelings on it (1995). I suppose most of the players would have their opinion but for me, in terms of talent and ability, it was probably the weakest team we had in terms of personnel. I always felt that the team selection I suppose throughout the 90s depended on who you got on with and that type of stuff and it was a little bit compromised at times.
“I think 95 was more that boys were prepared to put their shoulders to the wheel, we got a few more engines, the likes of Jim Gavin was the biggest engine you could get if you asked him to do a job he would go and do it to the maximum of his ability, where others that had bigger egos or bigger personalities wouldn’t have liked to do the hard work or the unseen work, you know?”
His absence from the starting XV carried over into 1996 and the change of management. Mickey Whelan came on board and while he has gone on to etch his name in Dublin GAA’s Hall of Fame, for many he was the right man at the wrong time.
“I had a bee in my bonnet after 95 and I started training in the winter ahead of the 96 season and then around January, the management team ended up leaving after a falling out with the county board. Mickey Whelan came in and I’ve been on record as saying he set Dublin back 10 years. If the management team had stayed as is, I believe we would have won in 96.
“I believe we could have done the two-in-a-row but Mickey came in and his first statement to the squad was, ‘the worst team ever to win an All-Ireland, with the worst full-back line, we’re going to win it next year with a bit of style and a bit of panache’. There was a lot of fellas on that squad, myself included, that would have had big personalities and would have felt ‘who does the f***ing eejit think he is.’ So he didn’t go down too well.
“As the year went on, I wasn’t getting game time I was playing well in friendly games but I didn’t see the manager yet. He had his mind made up. I suppose every manager has their choice and I didn’t figure. The year ended in the Leinster final with myself and Paul Clarke on Hill 16 watching it after being dropped.
“I got a phone call a couple of weeks later being told I was no longer a member of the squad and I suppose I was devastated at that stage. You grow up and all you want to do is play football with Dublin and to have that taken away from you at 25/26. I should have been coming into my prime.”
Kerry was the sanctuary that renewed Murphy’s love for the game and upon returning to Dublin he received a call from Tommy Carr who invited him back onto the panel. Murphy obviously obliged and returned to the metropolitan fold a hero with cult-status that still lasts to this day.
He played two more seasons with the Dubs and was largely used as an impact sub who would come on and inject a bit of life into the team as well as the crowd who would chant ‘Vinnie’s going to get you’ as he crashed into the opposition full-back upon arrival.
“It embarrassed me at the time but I still thought I was an elite footballer and still thought I was better. In reality, I knew exactly where I was but I’m going to have a go. I’m not going to let a team just run over me, I’m going to have a go back and I think the Dublin fans seen that they saw a lot of themselves in me which is great.
“I suppose going down to Kerry and coming back, how would Dublin fans look at it? What way were they going to take me? In fairness to them, they were brilliant and still are. Even now I get it walking up the street, ‘Vinnie’s going to get you’ and stuff like that. It’s a great feeling that Dub supporters still have a grá for me.
“I’m thankful for that when I came back there was a little bit of finality for me with Dublin. At 30/31, I wasn’t anywhere near the player I was five or six years beforehand but to be able to come back and compete in the Dublin team and finish it off, play two years and say I played for Dublin for 10 seasons. I got a chance to finish it on my own terms.”