As the Galway senior hurling team doctor, Dr Dan Murphy is one of those people you hope you don’t have to call upon, but is a reassuring presence on the sidelines nonetheless.
Dr Murphy, who has a General Practice in Salthill, has been involved with the senior hurling team since the league campaign of 2009, when he was approached by then team manager John McIntyre.
Along with kit-man James ‘Tex’ Callaghan, Dr Murphy’s services were retained when the current management team of Anthony Cunningham, Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny took over last year. He must be doing something right, he jokes.
Like all members of the panel, management team and backroom staff, Dr Murphy puts in a huge amount of time as part of his role. His surgery door is always open to players who need attention, while his weekends and evenings are regularly spent at training sessions, matches and meetings.
Such sacrifices are worth it though, and Dr Murphy says he feels “privileged and honoured” to be involved with this group of players.
As a Cork man, Dr Murphy could have been forgiven for having divided loyalties when the two counties met in the All-Ireland semi-final during the summer. He is, however, so inspired by the “stunning” professionalism and dedication of this group of players that his fealty lies firmly with the Tribesmen.
“You get so involved with them that there would be no question of an allegiance lying elsewhere,” he says.
On a personal level, Galway hurling will always have a special place in Dr Murphy’s heart, as his teenage daughter Orlaith, who tragically passed away suddenly in 2005, was an avid Galway hurling fan.
“She was born in Galway and she was a huge Galway supporter and used to give out to me if I wasn’t and I will always carry that with me,” he says.
Being a team doctor presents a very different set of challenges to those faced by Dr Murphy in his job as a GP. Whereas most of us compile a list of ailments, real or imagined, to present to our doctor when we visit, athletes who have dedicated their lives to a sport and have worked hard all season are often loathe to admit that they are hurt and risk missing out on a big game.
Trust is crucial and Dr Murphy believes the players know when to draw the line and admit injury for the good of the team.
“You’re talking about somebody who’s extremely well-trained and who, when he’s making his own mind up, is obviously very conscious of his own contribution but also his contribution to the overall effectiveness of the team.
“There’s a trust element there that they know what they themselves are capable of. And, on a big day, they’re often very capable of playing through a huge amount of pain because that’s part of the discipline that they put themselves through.”
Dr Murphy’s job was made a lot easier by the introduction of the compulsory wearing of helmets for all hurlers on 1 January 2010. It was, he says, an “enormous advance in safety on the pitch”.
Apart from helping to prevent serious head injuries, Dr Murphy points to facial injuries and the effects they can have on young people as another positive aspect of the introduction of helmets.
“Facial injuries are a concern because you’re talking about young men who have lives and careers ahead of them, on and off the pitch,” he says.
Nonetheless, with 30 strong men, each wielding their camán with grim determination, he accepts that there is still “a fair amount of potential” for injury on the field, although he feels that the discipline of hurlers at this level does lessen the risk.
“I would say probably, in general, because they’re so disciplined and so fit there are less injuries than what you might have perhaps at club level.”
Dr Murphy has a great relationship with all the players and considers them “a great bunch of lads”. He would be delighted if they could cap an extraordinary season by bringing home Liam MacCarthy this Sunday.
“I think it’s a great time for the city, I think it’s a great time for the county. I think on loads of levels, working through the new Leinster, toppling the champions already, they would be making history and, please God, it might be the first time since 1988.”
Here’s hoping that on Monday morning, the only ailments Dr Dan Murphy is concerned with are the after-effects of a night of delirious celebration.