Wexford's Tom Murphy: 'I always dreamed of being a footballer so to get the opportunity at a top club like Everton was amazing'

Tue, Jul 28 2020

The League of Ireland First Division has many interesting stories and subplots attached to itself – and in the case of Wexford FC’s Tom Murphy this is no different.

Murphy joined the Slaneysiders from recently relegated UCD during the off-season in the search of regular first-team football.

The former Everton trainee recently caught up with extratime.com reporter Tom Byrne for a questions and answers session.

During their chat, the 19-year-old spoke about his rise through the ranks, his time at Everton, his return home and the season ahead with his new club Wexford.

What was your earliest football memory, and who was your idol growing up?

“My earliest football memory was watching Man United with my Dad when I was five or six and from then I always wanted to play football. At the age of six I joined the under-8 team for my local club Aughrim Rangers and from then on, I never looked back.

“My idol growing up was Edwin van der Sar at Man United and Iker Casillas at Real Madrid. They were two very different goalkeepers, but I learnt so many aspects of being a goalkeeper from both of them and how they were both such leaders in their teams.”

You started playing youth football with Aughrim Rangers in County Wicklow. What age were you when you found out you had a talent in goal?

“When I started playing football at six years old, I started off as a centre half but at the age of seven or eight I wanted to be a goalkeeper. My dad was the manager of the team so I asked could I go in goal and we would spend every day after school of him taking shots on me and it took off from there!”

After Aughrim, you joined up with Arklow Town. Who were the first club to offer you a trial and how or when did a scout first make an approach to you?

“When I was at Arklow Town I was playing in a National Cup game against St. Joseph Boys from Dublin and a Chelsea scout was at the game. He then contacted the club and asked could I play a trial game in which I was then selected to go on trial to Chelsea’s academy at the age of twelve. From then on, I was approached by numerous clubs such as Man United, Leicester City, Blackburn and Everton”

How did you find it going over to England for a trial for the first time and how long did the trial at Chelsea last for? Would you say it helped develop you as a keeper in the long term?

“The trial was surreal and was an amazing experience at the time. They had just won the Champions League so there was a great buzz around the place. The trial lasted a week in which I was involved in numerous training sessions and games. The whole experience gave me a test for what a career in football was like and definitely made me more determined to work hard and get more opportunities like that again”

How did you react to all the interest in you and how did you fit in school on top of all your training?

“I was still playing for Arklow Town in the WDSL at the time. Going over on trial to Chelsea kicked off the interest in clubs starting to come and watch me play. At twelve I decided to stop playing GAA to just solely focus on football which allowed me to optimize my training and focus on getting better as a goalkeeper.

“There were a lot of late nights as I’d be going straight from school to training which involved a lot of travelling and by the time I got home I had to then try and get all my homework done for the next day!. This wasn’t easy especially when my Mam was one of my teachers!”

You then went to St. Joseph’s Boys in Dublin; what age were you when you joined the club and how did Joey’s progress you as a keeper?

“I joined Joey’s when I was thirteen years old. It was another step up from where I was before in which I got the chance to develop myself even more as a player through more training sessions per week, playing at a higher intensity and in a really competitive league in the DDSL.

“The quality of coaching I received was brilliant throughout. At Joey’s they really helped me develop my ability to play and be comfortable with the ball at my feet. I was fortunate enough to be part of a very successful team who back to back league titles as-well as the national cup.”

After the successful spell with Joeys, was it then that Everton showed their interest in bringing you over to Merseyside?

“At the end of my spell at Joey’s, Everton started to express their interest in me. At fifteen, I moved to UCD’s under-17 League of Ireland team for the first ever under-17 league. From there, I started going over on trial with Everton every few weeks. After the end of the season in October/November, I had been offered a contract at Everton which I accepted.”

As an academy player for Everton, what did your training regime consist of and how many hours a week would you say you spent on the pitch?

“My usual training resume was that we would be in for 7:30 each morning, completed a pre activation session from 8-9 and then had breakfast in the cafe before our first pitch session from 10-12 each morning. We would then have lunch and have a second pitch session from 1:30-3 before a gym session from 3-4 before our day was finished. You’d then head back to your digs. We did this every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

“On a Wednesday we were in college completing our sports science course and on Friday mornings we would do video analysis and a training session in preparation for a game on the weekend. In the afternoon we would go into college again. On Saturday then we would have our league games and on Sunday it would usually be our day off but most of the time I was in training with the under 23s also”

Sounds like a very busy schedule, did you get an opportunity to see the first team train or get the chance to train with them at any stage?  Would you have talked to Seamus Coleman much while you were over there?

“I was fortunate enough to get the chance on a few occasions to train with the first team which was a great experience. To have the opportunity to work with keepers like Martin Stekelenburg and Jordan Pickford as well as having strikers like Wayne Rooney shooting on you is a great experience. Coincidently Seamus and I picked up injuries around the same time, so we spent the summer in the training ground together. Seamus was great with me and always made me feel welcome and asked how I was getting on as well as James McCarthy during his time there also”

When did you manage to get home during your time at Everton? Would your family come over more often than you would get back to Ireland?

“I was involved in a few Ireland under-17 squads so I would be flying home to meet up with the squad so I’d fly home the night before and I would get to spend some time with my family before I went in with the squad the next day.

“Then I got two weeks off at Christmas so that was great to get home to spend some time with family also. Then on school holidays and midterms my family would come over for a weekend and get to watch a game also while they were over!”

What were your top highlights from the two years you spent at Everton?

“It was something I always dreamed of to be a footballer so to get the opportunity at a top club was amazing. I learnt so much and developed greatly as a player throughout and got to experience the life of a footballer. To get the opportunity to play and train with top class players and having the best facilities, equipment, coaches, physios and analysists has only benefited me for the rest of my career and has definitely made me more determined to make a career for myself in the game”

After your spell at Everton, you made the move back to Ireland and joined up with UCD. Was it tough leaving England or were you glad to get back home?

“Leading up to the end of my time at Everton I started to plan long term and wanted to be involved with a first team more regularly and try to break into a first team so coming back to UCD to play in the league of Ireland was where I saw this was best. I looked forward to it as I seen it as a new challenge for me and one, I believed could benefit my career.”

Last season you made your debut in the Premier Division for UCD, it must have been a great honour to make your first appearance in the top division of Irish football. How did you find the experience?

“It was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. I had been on the bench for a good few of the games throughout the season so to get the opportunity to finally play in the Premier Division at 18 was great and something that I had worked so hard for and only made me want to experience it more often”

You signed for Wexford ahead of this season. With the League of Ireland resuming this week after a lengthy break due to Covid-19, how have you been preparing for it?

“Over the break I kept myself ticking over with a training programme. We’ve been back as a team now a few weeks and have played a number of friendlies to prepare us to get back up to match fitness and ready for the restart on Friday night.”

 What are your team’s goals for the rest of the season and your goals personally?

“As a team we feel we can push for a playoff place as we have a good group of players that work hard for each other. Personally, for myself I just want to keep on playing games at first team level and build up my experience and exposure at this level to help and benefit my game as a young goalkeeper.”

As a young keeper still with a big future ahead of himself, what would your career goal be in the next 10 years?

“Personally, for myself in the next 10 years I would love to be a number one in a professional club playing in the top leagues week in week out. I’d love to get the chance to represent my country again as it’s an honour to step out onto the field in that jersey anytime I have at underage. And most importantly to still be enjoying my football no matter what way my journey and career may take me”