One of Ireland’s most recognisable GAA stars is gearing up for a stint with top French rugby side Clermont Auvergne, after switching places with former Welsh hero Shane Williams.
As part of the AIB documentary series ‘The Toughest Trade’ which last year saw Mayo star Aidan O’Shea swap GAA for American Football, the 27- year-old full forward will train and play with the team who play in the top-tier of French rugby.
Williams, Wales’ highest ever try scorer, made the trade with the Glenswilly club-man this month, for the programme which will be broadcast before the All-Ireland club finals on St Patrick’s Day before subsequently being made available on the AIB You Tube channel. The popular series has also seen Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher try his hand at cricket with the Adelaide Strikers in Australia.
At the beginning of the month the 39-year-old Welsh winger joined Murphy’s home club, the reigning county champions, while admitting he had never watched a full game of Gaelic football before.
“I’ve been to Donegal before, and it’s a lovely part of Ireland, with lovely people, so coming back is great,” he said.
Williams’ week-long trip to the county sees him take part in a friendly game, while he also immerses himself in local culture, attends local traditional music sessions and visits local schools. And in the game itself, a pre-season clash with local rivals Convoy GAA, Williams, who club chairman Eddie Crawford described as a ‘lovely lad’ he managed to score four points.
But now his opposite Murphy is preparing to take part in the world’s most physical rugby competition, the Top 14. “I want to be able to learn about the handling, the kicking, the technical side of things and obviously the physical side of things, if someone comes running at you that’s a hell of a lot bigger than what you’d see on a Gaelic field,” he said. “I’ll be back in sufficient time for the first national league game. I have done a hell of a lot of training so far this year and being away for five or six days isn’t going to affect things too much.
“I’ll be back with 10 days to go before the start of the national league and as I say, it’s the right time of year, everything suits, everything fits and that was a big factor in the decision to go and do it.”
And it is not his first brush with professional sport, with the 27 year old, 6’2” athlete previously offered a lucrative deal to travel to Australia to begin a contract with Australian Rules football but turned it down. Murphy has no experience of playing rugby, so has no preference for what position on the pitch he’d like to play in when he gets out to Clermont.
“Not a clue, hopefully somewhere not in the front row anyway! You would think somewhere along the backs, I would think anyway, where that would be, obviously the challenge of being able to hold and kick an oval ball is going to be something to get used to. The challenge is set out there and I will go for it and try to nail it anyway.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has named three uncapped players, all from Munster, in his squad of 40 for the opening two games of the RBS 6 Nations