Sligo's last big day in the sunshine came back in 2007 when they got their hands on the Nestor Cup, bridging a 32 year gap. One man doing his utmost to make sure the wait doesn't go on that long again, is Niall Murphy. We probably don't get to see as much of the Coolera/Strandhill man on the big stage as both he and GAA fans deserve, but his ambition to bring club and county to the summit is evident when speaking to him. This week we went ClubSpotting with Niall Murphy to Coolera/Strandhill GAA Club.
1. What are your first memories of your club Coolera/Strandhill?
Coolera/Strandhill was in some ways my second club, having grown up in Sligo town I moved to Coolera at the age of 10. I played U8s and U10s with St Marys. Nerves are the first memory that springs to mind as I attended my first training session. I was lucky that I was going to school in the area and I knew a lot of the lads already playing. The first memorable moment I have was in 2005 when Coolera/Strandhill lifted the Senior title with Kevin ‘George’ Cooney offering me his Jersey after the game. A jersey I still have in the wardrobe.
2. Who were your sporting idols growing up?
I probably followed soccer a lot more when I was younger and loved the Man United players. On the GAA scene my Dad was involved with St Marys seniors when we lived in the area. I never missed a training session, at the time Mark Breheny, Johnny Martyn and Johnny Davey were all at the beginning of their Inter County careers. I was lucky enough to play with them for Sligo later in their careers. John McPartland, Kieran Quinn and Karol O’Neill would have been local heroes from Coolera/Strandhill having been part of the Sligo team that won the Connacht final in 2007. Again, I was lucky to spend a couple years playing with these guys too.
3. What has been the proudest moment of your playing career?
I often get asked this and being honest it probably still hasn’t arrived. Each year I set out to win a Connacht Championship with Sligo and a club Championship with Coolera. Unfortunately, neither have happened. Until it does, I will be disappointed with my GAA career so far. On a personal level, it was a great achievement for my family, club and I to get selected for the International rules. Something I probably don’t look back at with the fondest of memories having picked up a bug on the tour and spending a large chunk of time in bed and missing the first test match
4. Toughest opponent you have faced?
I’ll go with Ross Donovan, a Sligo legend. I always felt he had the brain of a forward in some ways. He could play you in front or behind, depending where the ball was. Very athletic and strong to go with it.
5. Best player you have played with?
Probably Shane Walsh during my time with the International Rules, his skill level and athleticism was ridiculous. I don’t think the GAA has seen anyone with his athleticism and skill level to back it up. Top players tend to have one or the other, he possesses the two in abundance. Shout out to Johnny Davey in Sligo also.
6. Any pre game rituals or superstitions?
Very little, not too much of the superstitious type. Always like to eat at the same time and sit in the same spot in the dressing room. Habit more than anything else.
7. What are your hopes and ambitions for 2021?
Winning a club title with Coolera/Strandhill and someday lifting the Nestor cup with Sligo.
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