Barrie Henriques: Improving Paul would have pleased those in Sky Croke Park

IN MY youth I had a strong interest in boxing, in particular the professional game. We were familiar with names like the Raging Bull (Jake La Mota), Brown Bomber (Joe Louis), Manassa Mauler (Jack Dempsey), the Brocton Blockbuster (Rocky Marciano) and others.

IN MY youth I had a strong interest in boxing, in particular the professional game. We were familiar with names like the Raging Bull (Jake La Mota), Brown Bomber (Joe Louis), Manassa Mauler (Jack Dempsey), the Brocton Blockbuster (Rocky Marciano) and others.

But around about the late forties we heard of a middleweight, a real problem child (a juvenile delinquent who served time) turned World champion.

That information is of no earthly interest really, but it leads me to the reason for mentioning it. In the black and white days of cinema, a film of the life of Rocky Graziano came to my town.

It starred Paul Newman as Rocky. His wife was played by the gorgeous Pier Angeli (too early for you my son of Erin). The title of the film was “Somebody Up There Likes Me”.

Many times since, many famous sportsmen would use the phrase during media interviews.

On Sunday in Croke Park, I watched young Paul Murphy line out against Eoin Kelly in his first All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final.

Going grand

Having known the lad from when he was in short ‘britchers’, and being great buddies with his late dad, Tommy, I’ve kinda watched his progress.

On Sunday I was somewhat worried, and a little afraid, that the occasion just might get to him. I would be aware that his mum, Marion and his sister, Katie, would be chewing galvanised iron on whatever stand they were seated.

I would be aware that many rounds of the beads would be fingered.

In 31 seconds, the amazing Tommy Walsh fought and won the ball, but lost his hurley. Paul Murphy was close to Tommy - probably too close - but Tommy had no option but to pass the ball back to the apprentice corner-back. The Danesfort man cleared, getting all parties out of a tightening noose.

Murphy 1, Kelly nil.

At 8 minutes and 47 seconds, Murphy and Kelly were forehead to forehead for a dropping ball.

Murphy 2, Kelly nil.

I was happy. I’m sure Marian and Katie were too.

Two minutes later he helped Tommy out again, and so it continued.

At the 22-minute 30 mark, he thundered out to a Noel Connor’s free, grabbed the ball and a long clearance followed as a result. He was growing in confidence.

Then the film title came into my mind’s eye.

“Yup”, I thought, “Somebody Up There Likes You”. I could almost see his dad, Tommy, former chairman of the North and County Boards, with a battalion of Kilkenny Heavenly Supporters bedecked in the colours roaring their heads off.

His young lad was doing grand and we were delighted.

Isn’t there always a blip.

Grew in confidence

Its like the cow that gives a full bucket of creamy milk, but just as you go to pick it up, she kicks it over.

John Mullane was switched onto the rookie corner-back, who had not given the much acclaimed Eoin Kelly a sniff of the ball.

The gallant De La Salle star, combining well with Seamie Prendergast, defied Murphy’s best efforts at blocking to bury a marvellous shot in the net.

When the same Mullane added a point within minutes, I prayed that the Heavenly hordes would come to the rescue.

They did in spades, and as the game progressed, in particular during the second half, young Paul Murphy from Danesfurt (Michael Lyster pronunciation) was excellent, hurling with a confidence and a presence that belied his youth and exposure at this level.

Certainly not the finished article, but the lads in Sky Croke Park had a few scoops to celebrate with his dad.

Somebody Up There Likes Him alright. I wonder is there a Mouler Gorman’s in Heaven?