Hurling and camogie

Rossa metronome Deaghlan Murphy still pulling strings in memorable season

Rossa's Deaghlan Murphy in action against Ballycastle Picture: Seamus Loughran.

DEAGHLAN Murphy can turn up anywhere on any given day. Full-forward. Sweeper. Midfield. Wing-forward. Sometimes he’ll change positions two or three times within a game. The fact that’s he’s been utilised in so many different positions illustrates his value to the Rossa hurlers.

The 23-year-old has been the team’s trusted metronome throughout O’Donovan Rossa’s scintillating run to this season’s Antrim SHC semi-finals where they will come up against county champions Dunloy for a second time in three weeks next weekend.

After being edged out with the last puck of the game against St John’s, Rossa played superbly against Dunloy and should have taken all two points instead of one before hitting a resurgent Ballycastle for 4-14 to reach the knock-out stages.

And, against the odds, they took Cushendall’s scalp in a dramatic, nail-biting encounter at St Enda’s last Saturday afternoon – the first time in eight years the Ruairi Ogs won’t feature in a county final.

Stephen Beatty’s two-goal salvo in the second half stole the headlines – but there were remarkably composed performances right throughout the side, including Murphy’s efficiency in the middle of the field.

“I have to admit, that Cushendall win was one of the best feelings I’ve had in senior hurling in a long, long time,” said Murphy.

“It comes close to winning the All-Ireland Intermediate title in 2015.”

Perhaps what has made this one of the most memorable seasons in his young career is that Murphy’s playing with his two brothers (Tiarnan and Daire) and his father (Colly) is manager.

“There are three of us on the team – I’m 23, Tiarnan has just turned 21 and Daire is just turned 18,” said the eldest brother.

“Let’s just say it doesn’t get left at the front door in our house. Growing up, my daddy never wanted to be seen as nepotistic, so let’s just say I got the brunt of it! I always wanted him to be the senior hurling coach.

“Seamus Shannon and Aidan Hamill brought us to the All-Ireland Intermediate final – did a great job, and then we dipped for a few years, and that was probably down to the likes of myself going to America, where I played GAA and went to university out there for a year, and few of us went our separate ways…

“But it’s great to have my two brothers and my daddy there but at the end of the day it’s about Rossa. It’s not Rossa football or Rossa hurling – it’s Rossa. We regroup and we’ve a football quarter-final against Cargin on Tuesday night and we’ll prepare for Dunloy next Sunday.”

Rossa should have beaten Dunloy at Rossa Park back on August 16 but let a commanding lead slip in the closing stages to allow Gregory O’Kane’s men to come away with a share of the spoils.

With Dunloy beginning to fire, Rossa can expect to face a better version of the county champions in their eagerly anticipated rematch.

“We put it up to Dunloy for 60 minutes but unfortunately we weren’t good enough to go 72 minutes. You have to go to the final whistle,” Murphy said.

“I think Dunloy are a complete mirror image of ourselves, both in terms of age and play. Their forwards are very quick and skilful and if you give them time they’ll do damage. They’ve got ‘Shorty’ [Paul Shiels] – everybody in the county knows what ‘Shorty’ is capable of. If he gets half a second he’ll play a fantastic ball into the forward line and as you saw against St John’s they scored four goals.”

Murphy added: “Whenever Rossa has everybody behind the wheel and everybody is pulling in the same direction we are one of the best teams in the county and I think that it’s starting to show. I still think people are underestimating us.”

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Hurling and camogie