While the county of Kerry is synonymous with football, it’s often the gaelic variety that comes to mind when one thinks of the Kingdom. It’s fast becoming a hotbed for soccer though and Ramblers have seen this first-hand through the likes of Shane Guthrie, Brian Fitzgerald and Robert Birdsall among others over time. Bryan Murphy is the latest Kerryman to join the Cobh ranks and two goals in the 4-3 win at Limerick was a rich reward for a man who has not had it easy of late. His footballing background has taken him on an interesting path, and he is more than keen to tell his story,
“I come from a small town in Kerry called Listowel and started off playing with my local club Listowel Celtic. Under the fantastic Aidan O’Connor we reached three national cup semi-finals which was unbelievable for a Kerry side. Myself and another player, Paudie Quinn, quickly caught the eye of teams in England and Scotland. I went on trial to Celtic at the age of 13, Conor Hourihane was on the same plane with me going over. I was also at Sunderland, Aston Villa and Wrexham and it was a great experience but nothing really came of it. I was also then lucky enough to play for the Irish U16 side against Germany in 2008. The game took place in Listowel and it was a real honour. Mario Gotze and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen played for Germany that day while we had John Egan and Robbie Benson in our squad. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
“I was impressing for Irish development squads and that got me into the Irish U17 squad for the European Championships under Sean McCaffrey. We just missed out on qualifying after making it to the elite round. I then went on to play for Tralee Dynamos in the A Championship as it was then. I actually scored against Ramblers that season. I had a small spell at Limerick but that didn’t work out and I went back home to Listowel. Fairview Rangers up in Limerick signed me after that and I really enjoyed my time with them.”
Yet to test himself at League of Ireland level, Bryan made the move to Cobh in 2019 from Fairview. A familiar face from his teenage years was behind the move at first and Murphy was rearing to go. However, he found it somewhat difficult to adapt initially for a number of reasons. The talented footballer is not afraid to talk of his mental issues off the pitch which affected him throughout his career. Thankfully he has turned a corner due to the aid of those around him and his own pro-activity.
“My move to Cobh came about from a conversation with my girlfriend’s dad Jerry Sharma, who would have great connections in Cork football. He knew Mick Conroy well, Mick was the scout who first brought me to Celtic as a young lad. Mick and Stu Ashton would be quite close and I got a phone call to come down and train. I came on in a friendly and did fairly ok and signed after that.”
“When I first arrived I found it hard to adapt. It would have been easier if my fitness was better. I was hampered with injuries and my mental health was struggling. Mentally I have struggled since a young age and I kept it bottled it up, never speaking out. It hurt me more and I couldn’t take it anymore. I spoke with my girlfriend and my mother who have been brilliant. I then told Stephen Henderson, who was manager at the time, and my Ramblers team-mates, who were all fantastic with their support. I felt ashamed but they were a huge help. Sports Psychologist James Claffey has been immense and is amazing at his job. I’d be lost without him, I speak to him on a daily basis. I’m not cured, it’s with me every day but surrounding myself with good people and speaking out when I’m low is a massive help. The hard work on and off the pitch is now helping me.”
While much progress is taking place in terms of mental health in football, a certain stigma still attaches itself to speaking out in the dressing room. A more inclusive and open 21st century mindset is required and Bryan has experienced this in Cobh.
“I have to say that at Cobh they are brilliant with me. I think there is always more to be done and you never know when someone is suffering. I hid it for long enough with very few people, if any, noticing. I would encourage people to speak out and make that first step of saying you don’t feel well today. Whatever it is, you need to get it off your chest. In my time here Hendo, Stu Ashton, James Claffey, Dec Coleman, Ian Ryan , and every single team mate have been there for me and I couldn’t thank them enough. My family have been amazing and I will continue to work on my mental health. I’m enjoying life now and on a bad day I can speak openly about it.”
Turning matters back towards the pitch before concluding, the attacker is overjoyed to see his name back amongst the goals. With an FAI cup tie at home to Dundalk on the horizon, as well as the First Division run-in, there’s plenty of time yet for more goals in the claret and blue,
“I’m starting to enjoy myself at training and by scoring goals and working hard I hope to pay back to everyone for been there for me. A few months ago I was giving up football so to be on that pitch and scoring and winning is amazing. I’m very grateful.”
Bryan and the rest of the Ramblers side host Shelbourne this Saturday at 7pm in St Colman’s Park.
By Thomas Stafford