While much was made about Stephen Kenny’s departure from Dundalk at the end of last season, the manager wasn’t the only member of staff to depart the club on the back of last year’s league and FAI Cup double success.
Strength and conditioning coach Eoin Clarkin left to work with Arsenal Ladies in April, eventually being replaced by Graham Norton, while shortly before that at the turn of the year athletic therapist Sam Rice also departed to move Down Under.
In his place, Dundalk man David Murphy was appointed as the club’s new sports physiotherapist in January.
Having grown up in the shadow of Oriel Park on the Carrick Road, David left Dundalk at the age of 17 – firstly training as a sports scientist in London before completing his Masters in physiotherapy in Edinburgh.
After that he worked for Colchester Utd for nine months as an academy physiotherapist before moving on to Reading FC for an 18 month spell where he was employed as a senior physiotherapist, working with the club’s underage players from U-9 level up to U-21.
From there it was onto the High Performance Academy in Southampton for Team GB athletes.
Two years ago, however, David decided he wanted to come home and it was this decision which would ultimately lead to him returning to his home town.
“I had been away for eight or nine years and with family back here it was just becoming too much for me so I just decided to come on home,” he said.
“I left the sports stuff and came home and worked in private practice in Dublin for a year. Then basically to cut a long story short last December I saw a tweet go out from Danny Miller about a full-time role at the club. Previous to that I had been at the Cup final last year in the Aviva and I remember thinking I’d love a gig with Dundalk so it was quite funny how it all fell into place.”
David, who now lives in New Muirhevna off the Dublin Road, is wise beyond his years and has proven hugely popular within the dressing room for his open nature and mindfulness when treating players.
“A lot of people have this idea that physiotherapy is quite physical and that’s it about massages and prescribing exercises and out the door you go but the profession has evolved from that. I don’t really use any gimmicks. I don’t use ultrasound and I don’t use needling anymore because I think in terms of my practice – and I know Danny is very similar – we take a kind of biopsychosocial approach.
“You’re treating a person. It’s not about whether it’s Robbie Benson, Jordan Flores or John Mountney. You’re treating a person and I think at times in the sporting world people forget about that every now and again.
“We all have our problems as such outside of our work life. That’s just life and we need to be quite mindful and compassionate of that when we’re working with these players. A lot of these guys have played football for most of their lives and football is their lives and when they get injured that part of their life is taken away from them for a short period of time. That can be quite difficult for them, not just physically but emotionally so I think it’s our role as physios to be aware of that and be quite empathetic.
“We’re not just treating a hamstring say, we’re treating a whole individual and I think that’s something that I bring into practice with people in general no matter what their age. We’re all human and that’s how we have to treat each other.”
David revealed that his interest in physiotherapy was sparked after picking up a number of injuries of his own during his time playing with Dundalk Rugby Club, who he represented from U-14 up to senior level.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries. I’m from a rugby background and I’ve had hip surgery, ankle surgery, wrist surgery and different orthopaedic surgeries so I just really liked the hospital environment when I was there rehabbing myself and I just found the human body quite interesting.
“I didn’t really see myself working in a school or working in an office so it just kind of fell into place more than anything. I always had an interest in sport so if I wasn’t going to play professional sport I was kind of looking to work in it. It’s the next best thing.”
If a return to Dundalk to work for the local club was a dream, that quickly became a bit of a nightmare when an early season injury crisis threatened derail the Lilywhites’ title defence before it had even really begun.
David was really thrown in at the deep when both Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney suffered fractures in the opening league game at home to Sligo Rovers. Within a few weeks the five midfielders who had started that fixture were all on the treatment table as Vinny Perth’s side struggled for form.
“We went through pre-season without too many injuries so to be hit with two fractures in the first game of the season was definitely a shock,” said David.
“With these contact injuries there’s not too much you can do from an injury preventative point of view. It’s just the nature of the sport and you’re going to pick up these fractures every now and again but to have two in the one game, I’ve certainly never seen it before and I’m not sure Danny has either.
“I think we were just extremely unlucky at the start of the season but we have access to the top consultants in the country, the top surgeons in the country and potentially in Europe so having that access has been really beneficial. With Robbie’s break, he could have been out a lot longer but we took a progressive approach so we were never really phased too much by them.
“Danny probably found the pressure more than I did at that stage as he’s in the head role but I think that’s the reason why you have two full-time physios in the club because you’re going to have these busy periods during the season. We’ve been scratching our heads at times because there was points where all our midfielders were injured and we were stretched in that area of the field but we have good experience between us and good guys in the SSC and sports science departments as well which has kind of guided us with regard to a return to play. We’ve used GPS when needed. It has been an up and down season. We’ve come out of the down part of it and we’ve really only a few minor things at the minute. It’s easy to dwell on it retrospectively but when you’re in it it’s just kind of madness and you just have to get the head down and focus on getting the players right again.”
While working closely with your home town club who are champions has it up sides, David revealed he doesn’t enjoy matches but with around 20-25 friends and family expected to travel to Sunday’s FAI Cup final it’s one day he is getting more and more excited about.
“To be honest, I don’t enjoy matches. For me they create some anxiety because you’re just hoping the lads get through the match without picking up anything too serious.
“I suppose now that we’ve won the league, the EA Sports Cup and the FAI Cup final coming up it is a little bit more enjoyable and the treatment room is a little bit more empty as well.”
With a new job at Dundalk FC, a new house for him and girlfriend Molly in New Muirhevna and a new baby following the arrival of his first child Noah on August 25th, David has already completed his own treble this season.
Now he is hoping the side can do likewise against Shamrock Rovers having settled back into life nicely in Dundalk.
“It’s nice being home. People always say the grass is greener but there’s a lot to be said for being settled,” said David.
“I’ve moved around a lot in my late teens and early 20s so that can be a problem in itself but being home and having a new house and my family close and working in a job that I love is excellent. I’m really enjoying life at the minute and making great memories.
“I’ve worked in jobs before where I’ve woke up and thought about every excuse under the sun not to go in but it’s a real tell tale sign about where I’m at in terms of my career at the minute that I haven’t felt like that once this year. It really is an attribute to the club as well and the people who are working there.
“I’d be texting the lads up til midnight some nights and you’d be laughing at your phone. It definitely does feel like a little family and I can definitely say I’ve made some friends for life this year and made some excellent memories with these people so I’m really, really grateful for that,” he said.
Just like Dundalk, David won’t be standing still with a private practice planned down the line. He has had many special memories this year but hopefully there are more to come.