Murray parks Ireland ‘frustration’ as he goes in search of first European final
It’s funny how a weekend of top-class entertainment changes the conversation. Conor Murray has made it through 25 minutes with the assembled media without Ireland really featuring before we’re told it’s time to wrap things up.
Two weeks ago, the pathologists with type-writers were picking through the bones of a Six Nations autopsy, yet here we were cross-examining a key protagonist without even touching on the issue that had dominated the conversation.
Before we finish, there’s time for a quick question about the Cardiff defeat even if it already feels like a different time. The rugby season has moved on and last weekend provided a slew of new story-lines.
The page turns and the focus is on Munster’s quest for a first semi-final win in four attempts, Tadhg Beirne’s gamesmanship, Dan Leavy’s catastrophic injury, Jacob Stockdale’s carelessness and Toulouse’s beautiful rebirth.
The players haven’t forgotten about the Six Nations, they’ve just parked it for a while and will review it once again when they reassemble in national camp before heading on their pre-World Cup break.
Murray’s form was central to Ireland’s struggles but the scrum-half did improve as he went on and his first game back for Munster saw him take the next step.
He’s happy with where he’s at and is determined to put the frustration of the early spring behind him as he looks ahead to the business end of the club season full of promise.
“It was good the weekend, obviously it was progression,” he said of his performance levels.
“The Six Nations was frustrating. There were small margins, that is what this game is built on. I asked myself, ‘why is so much being made about this, why is there such a thing about my form and stuff?’
“They were tiny things but tiny things are big things in the big picture if that makes sense? A small, loose pass can kill a whole move, could kill a flow of an attack, so I felt better again at the weekend.
“I felt energetic. Coming back in after a frustrating Six Nations. (The Munster players) who didn’t play in the Six Nations… they are just buzzing about this week, about European week, they just bought into that.
“They got you going again. It was great to get out there again, to keep going, and they got you believing in your own ability because you have been there.
“Even during the Six Nations, I was frustrated (with my form) but there was not that much in it. Just small things.
“There was plenty of good in (my performances) too. It is just about tightening up those small things.
“Absolutely, I can get to those levels again. Injury wise, I feel great.
“I heard people say ‘was your neck OK?’ Unfortunately my neck had nothing to do with it. I’d like to be able to blame it. The body feels great. Hopefully things will be on an upward curve.
“I haven’t watched it (the 25-7 loss to Wales). I played in it and I know enough about how it went, it was just a game of pressure.
“Wales went up after one minute and 20 seconds, they went 10-0 up, and I was talking to one of the Welsh lads afterwards and he was saying, ‘we didn’t have to play much rugby after that, it was just let you try and play and chase the game’.
“It was just a bad day, a really bad day. I got a break just after it. I parked it. I am used to it at this stage – not those bad days but whether it is a win or loss, just parking it, moving on to the next thing, getting excited about the week ahead.
“That was the beauty about coming back to Munster with that buzz. I just bought into that straight away. It was refreshing to be back.
“We will address it when we meet up again but it is about just moving forward. That wasn’t the real us, that everyone has been used to.
“That was part of the big deal that everyone made about it, we have still won 23 of the last 26 Tests.
“OK, two losses have come in this most recent tournament, it is tough but we will get back there, I am fully convinced we will. It is just frustrating.
“To park it is – I wouldn’t say it’s easy but I am able to do it. We just get on with it.”
It helps that there are such high stakes to play for.
Murray grew up watching Munster teams winning trophies, but since helping the team to the 2011 Celtic League his story in red has been one of near-misses in knock-out games.
He is fed up with losing semi-finals after defeats to Saracens and Racing 92 in the last two seasons.
“Big time. It’s all about the European Cup in Munster really,” he said.
“It’s about this group winning a bit of silverware. Yeah, there’s no bones about it. We want to get to that final. We’ll talk about that when that comes around.
“Especially two years ago losing to Saracens back in the Aviva, one of the most special atmospheres I’ve ever encountered. I wasn’t playing but just to be there that day. The experience was something special.
“And our fans again, the travelling support. Munster’s a different level. I’m sure the other lads from the other provinces would say the same about theirs but just Munster is incredible, what it means to them. For them as much as us we really, really want to get past the semi-final.
“It would be the one bar a World Cup. Yeah, it would be the one. Growing up seeing Paulie and ROG win European Cups. Yeah, it would be pretty much everything.”