She is one of the longest-serving players on a very experienced squad but there was a brief period at the end of last year when Aoife Murray thought that the end was nigh writes Daragh O'Conchuir.
By that stage, she had given 11 years to Cork at senior level, nine of them as first-choice goalkeeper. The effort of travelling from Dublin for training sessions was taking its toll. The hunger was still there but she couldn’t face the three-times-a-week M7 and M8 grind. Training, playing, work, finances and sanity would all suffer.
She took January and February off completely, before resolving on a training regime that involved a twice-weekly one-on-one session with Declan Conlon at the St Brigid’s club where she had played ladies football for a spell.
Once a week, either at the weekend or during the week – in which case she would take a half-day from work – the Cloughduv clubwoman made the 320-mile round trip, either side of a collective training session.
Murray knows that this is a regime that wouldn’t have worked without the blessing of the other players.
“The big thing for me was if the girls were going to accept me not making every single session” says the four-time All-Ireland winner and triple All-Star netminder. “The feedback was that they knew I couldn’t make everything.
“I knew for a fact how serious it was going to be taken so that was half the reason why I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the commitment because of the level of input from the players and the management.
“Sure you don’t want to be there taking the mick and only making it once a month, or two or three times a month.”
Another novel approach to keeping conditioned was playing rugby for the first time. Murray threw her lot in with Old Belvedere and lined out at inside centre until the season’s conclusion in March. As a long-time frustrated outfield player, it was heaven sent.
“It was definitely a new experience, let’s put it like that. I absolutely fell in love with the sport. After three sessions I said ‘this is brilliant’. Obviously rugby takes its toll on the body as well and I’m not getting younger!”
She is only 29 and since returning to the team for the last game of the group series in the League, hasn’t missed a beat. There is one negative to not being around for every session though.
“What I do miss is the team. I love going back, experiencing the craic, the camaraderie, the jokes, the banter. And then the seriousness of it. But I’m good physically and mentally. I’m getting the one-on-one training and goalkeeping is a bit of a selfish, lonely spot anyway.”
She gives an insight into mindset of a goalkeeper when asked about Ursula Jacob’s spectacular goal against her in last year’s All-Ireland final. The Wexford star sent a powerful ground shot to the corner of the net from just outside the square. It was unstoppable. Well, according to most people anyway.
“Every goalie will look at it and say they could have stopped it. I could have taken a massive gamble and dived that direction half a second sooner. As a goalie, you’ll always see the ‘I could have’, ‘if I did’.
“I’d be surprised if I met a goalie who said they couldn’t have stopped something. Maybe I didn’t watch the body language correctly but at the end of the day it’s a fantastic goal by a great player so you can at least take that out of it.”
Something tells you it is of absolutely no consolation to Murray at all. It was a goal and Wexford won the All-Ireland. This is a new season and Cork are desperate to take the honours this time around.
They have never looked beyond the next hurdle however, and are unlikely to do so now, when a Kilkenny team that has come out of a group involving Wexford, Galway, Clare and Derry with a 100% record is providing the opposition in the Liberty Insurance senior semi-final.
“Goals have been set at the start of the year and they’re all short term goals. Obviously there is the long term goal of winning an All-Ireland but nobody is looking past Saturday and the motivation for us is to win on Saturday. A lot rests on this game.
“Last year is last year. We can’t change the result unfortunately. We would if we could but we can’t. We’ve learned a lot from it and management have learned a lot from it which should mean we are in better condition, better prepared. But on the whole, all the girls care about is Saturday.”
Cork v Kilkenny Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Semi-Final 2.00pm Semple Stadium, Thurles
Wexford v Galway Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Semi-Final 4.00pm Semple Stadium Thurles