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26th Dec 2016

You have the perfect opportunity to reward Conor Murray for one hell of a year

The least he deserves

Patrick McCarry

Conor Murray was not letting history hold him back. He was not worried about expectations. He could have cared less if the world champions were boring their eyes into him.

58 minutes gone at Soldier Field and Ireland needed someone to step up.

Johnny Sexton was down getting treatment and Ireland had a penalty they needed to score. The All Blacks had butchered into Ireland’s lead. 30-8 had become 30-22 and New Zealand were humming.

Rob Kearney was obstructed going for another one of those spectacular aerial takes. It was a straight on penalty attempt but just shy of 40 metres. Everyone looked around; Sexton was not going to make it back up.

Murray gave Rory Best a shout. He was carrying an injury himself and his lungs were burning but he know how important the kick would be. It would stall the All Blacks’ momentum.

He hardly hung around. A solid connection and a roar from the Irish hordes as soon as it was lamped off his boot. 33-22 and a thrill of hope again.

You could vote him as your Sportsperson of the Year for this alone but there are so, so many more reasons.

It would have been enough but no-one was to know that when Murray chased down Simon Zebo’s kick up the left wing. Julian Savea was dished a tough old pass but he made the mistake of thinking he could burn away from Murray.

Bad idea = Five metre scrum and an Irish try.

Murray tackle 1

Clip via eirSport

From start to finish, Murray was immense. He was 10/10 good. He scored a superb try in the first half when he completely sold one to the entire All Blacks defence – a defence that had conceded five tries in the entire Rugby Championship.

The try was seminal but Murray was not happy with a memento. He was sick and tired of his country never having beaten New Zealand.

That day in Chicago, Murray was a history-maker. He is a long way from done, however. Anyone who knows him will tell you that.

Conor Murray 19/11/2016

Ireland were having a middling 2016 until the November internationals rolled around. They had accounted for Italy and Scotland and drawn with Wales but they were never in the Six Nations race. The Springboks were beaten in Cape Town but Ireland let a famous series win slip through their fingers.

Murray played in all eight of those games and played them very well. Targeted by the French and English, he was often our salvation and inspiration. A dependable figure and a rallying point. By November, he had put himself right up there with Aaron Smith and Ben Youngs in the world’s best scrum-half debate.

By the month’s end, there was little doubt about it. Murray was a sensation in Chicago and ran the show against Australia.

On December 10 at Thomond Park, Youngs arrived with his Leicester Tigers team and was a shock and awe spectator to Murray’s box-kicking, tempo-ticking masterclass.

Again, he did all the rudimentary jobs he had to, for Munster, and rolled the sleeves up to make tackles, chase back and make clear-outs. 27 now and in the form of his life, Murray sprinkled some magic on affairs while he was at it.


No-look pass to Simon Zebo and Tigers crumpled thereafter.

Murray is a man at the height of his powers. From St Munchin’s College to the top of the world.

What strikes me as the most extraordinary part of this incredible year is just how consistent he was. Other players have contributed to some outstanding results but Murray – imperious and engaging – has been that one, marvellous constant.

Now is as good a time as any to reward our world-class No.9.