In a sun-soaked UPMC Nowlan Park on a mid-July Monday evening, little did we think we’d be seeing Kilkenny’s senior, under 20 and county footballers all sharing the same stage.
But yet, there we were.
Monday evening’s civic reception for the Kilkenny inter-county hurlers and footballers saw thousands take to Kilkenny GAA HQ with the county’s junior footballers, under the guidance of Christy Walsh, first to take to the stage.
Speaking after the event, Danesfort’s Paul Murphy – having joined the panel this year for the first time – was quick to pay tribute to those who have paved the way for football in Kilkenny in recent years, in particular, county football manager Christy Walsh.
“There’s been a lot of firsts over the last eight days for a lot of these footballers. I’m only involved this year, there’s a lot of lads here ten years and there’s one lad here since the nineties playing football”, says Murphy, who stepped into the football fold this year having departed the senior hurling setup ahead of the start of the 2021 national hurling league campaign.
“Over the last eight days there’s lots of things that have happened that have justified lots of their work – playing in Croke Park, winning a junior All-Ireland and then standing up there beside our Under 20s and senior hurlers as well, that in itself is really prestigious.”
It was something different”, says Murphy of enjoying his football this summer. “There’s a little less pressure involved and the lads you’re training with are a great group of players, lads I would never have met before. There are a lot of lads through different clubs that you wouldn’t have met through hurling, they’re footballers. “
“We’re grounded, we know where we land amongst teams within Kilkenny in terms of significance but we enjoyed the novelty of being the football team that took back the junior All-Ireland. It’s not many times you’ll see the Kilkenny jersey on the same pitch as a Dublin and Kerry football jersey. We really enjoyed it.”
“Christy has been the driving force of Kilkenny football for so many years now. It’s great that there’s a bit of publicity around it and lads see that there’s an opportunity to get a Kilkenny jersey. For so many years, Christy was putting in hard work and there was a lot of darker days, struggling to get teams together and a bit of uncertainty going into years.”
“It’s a great reward for Christy. You see the reception he got from the players themselves when he got up on the stage. The players know the effort he’s after putting in. It’s all well and good to be in Nowlan Park here now on a sunny July day with a cup but there were so many days that Christy put into this before. He deserves fully this day in the sun.”