BEFORE the 2016 All-Ireland camogie final, Paudie Murray was asked about his plans for the following season with Cork, and whether he’d be staying on for a sixth year in charge, irrespective of the result against Kilkenny.
"Winning is the drug,” said Murray. “Five years in it now. Will I be doing something next year? I will, whether it will be this or not. Winning is what keeps you going.”
It didn’t happen that afternoon, on two fronts, as Murray was also the manager of the Cork Intermediate camogie side, which lost the final to Kilkenny as well.
It was never going to be easy, but Murray had left nothing to chance from the very outset of the 2016 season, when he had set the target of winning both titles on the same day.
At least both matches were on at the same venue. In March of that year, the Cork seniors were in Piltown for a Division 1 clash against Kilkenny while the intermediates entertained Westmeath at Castle Road. In July, Murray took the senior team to Wexford Park while his brother Kevin oversaw the intermediates for their clash against Meath in Trim the same afternoon.
On the day of the 2016 All-Ireland finals, Murray and eight other mentors travelled on the intermediates' bus, with nine other mentors remaining with the seniors. It wasn’t an easy task for Murray to double-job on such an important day for both teams but he had left nothing to chance in his pursuit of double glory.
That immense challenge of trying to win both titles on the same day appeared to energise Murray. A year later, he guided both squads back again to Croke Park. The seniors beat Kilkenny while the Intermediates drew with Meath before narrowly losing the replay.
In 2018, Murray went again and finally managed the remarkable double, with the seniors defeating Kilkenny again, and the Intermediates beating Down.
It was the apex of Murray’s management career, but it also offered a neat window into his mindset, and how he hunted success down with a ferocious intensity and will-to-win, combined with a forensic attention to detail.
In the wake of that success, Murray said that managing a men’s hurling team held a major attraction for him. Murray remained on as Cork senior camogie manager for three more seasons but, by 2020, he had already put the wheels in motion towards realising that ambition of managing a male Cork team.
His appointment as Cork U15 hurling manager was hampered by Covid-19 restrictions last year, but Murray stepped up as U16 manager this year, where that development squad was divided into regional sides, with Murray as co-ordinator.
Combining that role with his commitments as senior camogie manager underlined Murray’s organisational, managerial and player-management skills but it also showcased his ambition, especially with him now set to take over as Cork minor hurling manager next month.
With Cork such emphatic All-Ireland champions in 2021, and with the 2022 minors looking like another formidable squad, having Murray in charge will be a huge plus for those players, and for Cork hurling going forward.
For a start, having someone who managed a team in seven senior All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, and three intermediate deciders, illustrates the massive experience Murray brings to the job.
He has always surrounded himself with good people, but Murray was always an innovator too.
Murray always projected that something different about him. He enjoyed incredible success, but he still had a huge profile for a camogie manager. Murray never shied away from controversy or publicly speaking his mind, especially on issues he felt very strongly about.
He was never afraid to stir the pot too with the opposition. That was really evident in his often fractious engagement with former Kilkenny manager, Ann Downey. After this year’s All-Ireland semi-final win against Kilkenny, Murray immediately initiated the mind games with Galway by talking about their recent poor record in finals, especially when compared to Cork’s in Croke Park.
Yet after Cork lost a real tight battle, Murray was magnanimous in defeat. He also spoke about his friendship with Galway manager Cathal Murray.
Murray may not have seen eye-to-eye with everyone on the other side, but numerous senior camogie managers often privately mentioned about how helpful Murray was to them off the field, especially in providing advice.
Murray still often gave the impression of not being universally popular, even within Cork, but that was not necessarily a hindrance. If anything, that public persona added to his charisma, and sharpened the edge he brought to the job.
Murray cultivated that image through his confidence, especially in how he spoke and acted. He appeared calm and composed on the line but he still gave the impression of being fearless, always willing to take risks, of being prepared to do whatever was required to get success, traits which all the best managers possess.
Murray’s positioning now into mainstream Cork hurling as a manager provides further evidence of the rich stable of successful managers and coaches Cork are now developing and growing at underage level, impressive individuals with the ability to step up and drive Cork hurling forward into the future; Pat Ryan, Donal O’Mahony, Noel Furlong.
Now that Murray is in the system, he will have to prove that he can achieve and impress at this level, which he is more than capable of doing. And if he does, that will surely open up a clearer pathway up the Cork hurling managerial ladder for Murray.