Getting a second chance to play a sport you love is one thing. Making the most of it, and earning success with old friends, is another.
Clara captain Austin Murphy is a testament to that belief. Sidelined by injury for four years, on Sunday he proudly
captained his club to the county senior hurling title.
“I was told at 23 that because of my knee that I’d never hurl again,” he said. “I thought my career was over.
“Since I came back it’s given me such a new lease of life that I want to keep going as long as I can. I want to play every game as if it’s my last. Given the injuries I had I shouldn’t be here - it’s a dream come true.”
The corner-forward, who was grinning from ear to ear, called it an ‘unbelievable day’ after lifting the Walsh Cup above his head following Sunday’s 1-15 to 2-10 win over Carrickshock
“It’s like a dream,” he said. “For me to come back (after a long time out injured) and for the club to achieve what we have has been incredible.
“I hadn’t hurled in four years and to come back last year and win what we did was incredible.”
Murphy was quick to thank one of the men who helped him get back on the road to recovery.
“I’ll be forever in debt to Tadhg O’Sullivan for the work he did,” he said. “I had two operations on my knee and he’s been the biggest help. If anyone wanted to get treatment he’s been top class - I can’t say how much it means to me.”
The corner-forward was buzzing with energy as he relived the glory of winning the final. Rather than starting with a win, he reckoned a setback was what set the team on the road to glory.
“I know it sounds silly, but getting relegated two years ago helped us,” he said. “It helped us to bond as a team - you could see that bond in the final. I’ve never been involved with such a team who worked so hard for each other. I think that was evident - we worked tirelessly for each other.
“We needed to win a few games and to get the belief,” he said of the team’s time in the intermediate ranks. “Looking back to last year we only drew with Glenmore in the quarter-finals of the intermediate championship. It’s such a tough grade we could still be there.
“That can be a lesson for a team who goes down,” he added. “Relegation doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. You can build on it.
“Last year coming through the All-Ireland series and into the senior hurling league the performances were building and building,” he added. “Once you get that momentum and the feeling of winning it’s incredible.”
When the Clara team look back at the last year or so and all they have won - intermediate league, county, Leinster and All-Ireland titles, and now a senior league and championship double - did the players have to pinch themselves?
“It’s like as if we’ve been on a rollercoaster, but we believe all of it. Even before the game, sitting in the dressing-room, we believed that we were going to win the game. That might sound big-headed, while people had been tipping Carrickshock we felt hadn’t hurled too badly all year.”
Clara’s resolve was tested by a game where the result was in the melting pot for so long, not least when Carrickshock plundered 1-1 to eat up Clara’s four-point lead heading into half-time.
“Carrickshock got goals but we were comfortable,” said Murphy. “I did notice in the second half that the wind died down. It was probably the luck of the gods but there was little or no wind behind them in the second half, which gave us an advantage.”
While there was time for celebrations, Murphy revealed the team wants their run to continue.
“The one thing we’ll have to learn from this is to keep focused,” he said. “Back in 2007, when we won the intermediate title we didn’t prepare well for our Leinster championship game the following week and we were beaten by a Westmeath team (Kilmessan). Instead, they went on and won the All-Ireland. We’ll celebrate this win, but we’ll be back in training within the week for the Oulart game.”