I was lucky to speak to rugby World Cup star Jenny Murphy recently for the IRFU’s ‘In Touch’ magazine. Having overcome the heartache of France, the Leinster woman is now helping to drive Ireland’s 7s Olympic qualification for Rio.
LIFE briefly slowed down for Jenny Murphy, just briefly, following Ireland’s departure from the World Cup this summer.
Philip Doyle’s side had given their all on the fields of France before the hosts pipped them in the third/fourth place play-off.
Murphy had done the green jersey proud. Her sprinkled cameo appearances were energy-injecting, and the Kildare woman was deserving of her four-week recuperation period.
It lasted just three however.
Amid moving house, the 25-year-old centre opted to return to the gym earlier than scheduled ahead of her return to Jon Skurr’s 7s side as one of 19 players now centrally contracted by the IRFU with the Sevens High Performance Programme — 11 of which came though the IRFU Talent ID programme.
“I’m training full-time with the 7s now in DCU and we’re really enjoying it, but 15s is still extremely important to me too,” she confides, reflecting on the change of guard amid a number of retirements since the World Cup.
“It’s different in that Fiona’s (Coughlan) not in there. It’s surreal really and you’d miss her around, but they’ve left women’s rugby in such a good state and we need to build on what the likes of herself, Lynne (Cantwell) and Philip (Doyle) have put in place already.
“Fiona’s a massive loss, a fantastic leader, but one of the reasons she was so brilliant was that she helped other people blossom into that role. Come the Six Nations, whoever gets the captaincy will do a good job.”
Murphy is a role model in her own right.
In this her second year working as a Sky Sports athlete mentor, the former League of Ireland winner with Peamount United enlightens youngsters as to the power of sport.
“It’s mostly about imparting any sports knowledge that I’ve got, like the importance of working with others and respecting one another.
“It’s about sharing life lessons in the hope that they can take that into their daily lives.”
Her good friend, Olympic boxer Katie Taylor joins her as a Sky Sports mentor, as does her Irish teammate Alison Miller — a student in UCC — and other prominent Irish athletes including Natayla Coyle, Brian Gregan, Michael Conlon and Bernard Brogan.
Her job is a joy.
“If you said to me a few years ago that a female rugby player would be thought of as being on par with an Olympic sprinter or a bronze medallist, or gold medallist even, I don’t know how I would have reacted, but it’s fantastic being under the umbrella of being an elite athlete and do what I do.”
Her employers are more than accommodating to her training schedule which involves being in the gym five hours a day (2-7pm).
For Murphy, it’s the perfect match.
“It’s pretty full-on, but you have to put in the time to get the rewards. You wouldn’t be there unless you wanted to do it. We want to make sure we’re ready to play the best we can and get the results we know we can.”
With the 7s squad now centralised in Dublin, the camaraderie is almost tangible.
The focus is certainly on 7s, but sharing a house with Irish prop Ailís Egan means the 15s game isn’t very far away.
In fact, Egan is kindly passing on the secrets to being a prop to the newly positioned Murphy.
“It’s a different role for me and Ailís in fairness is giving me a few tips!
“I’m enjoying it and it’s just great to be back and the fact that I can play and training everyday is amazing. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this.
“I realise I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in. I want to work hard and keep on improving. I’ve got a opportunity now that a lot of athletes don’t get and maybe deserve to be in the position I’m in, but for whatever reason they’re not so I’m going to learn as much as I can and enjoy it.”
Skurr’s side will depart at the end of the month for the Dubai Rugby 7s, at which they’ll compete in the Elite Club competition.
“It’s an important tournament for us. That’s the main goal. We need to be winning and doing well in every competition so we can measure ourselves up against other countries and see where we are.
“But, if we keep on building, we have a good chance of doing well looking towards Rio.”
Ireland women’s 7s centralised contracted players: Siobhan Barrett, Ashleigh Baxter, Nicole Cronin, Nicole Caughey, Aoife Doyle, Katie Fitzhenry, Lisa Jacob, Claire Keohane, Martina McCarthy, Alison Miller, Jenny Murphy, Lucy Mulhall, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, Elaine Ryan, Hannah Tyrrell, Lauralee Walsh, Susan Vaughan, Megan Williams, Ailsa Hughes.