Murphy’s Ducks in a row in his ice hockey pursuit

by Stephen Findlater
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WHEN it comes to sporting choices, Blanchardstown teenager Mark Murphy hasn’t exactly made his own life easy. But then why should he? Passionate about ice hockey, Murphy developed his craft playing for Dublin club the Flying Ducks, a side that has to travel to Belfast in order to play most of their league games.

Dublin has no permanent ice hockey rink yet Murphy’s passion has taken him all the way to Canada. Initially he stayed for six weeks, training with Somang in French speaking Montreal. Invited back, he’s now been resident in Montreal and a member of that Somang team since late summer.

“So far, I’ve played over 30 games and traveled to play in Boston, Ottawa and Wisconsin,” he told the Dublin Gazette.

“I train on ice five times a week and, off ice, twice a week. I started school in late December and I’m already loving it. As a team, we’ve bonded and become like brothers.

“I feel I have developed more in the four months I’ve been here than I have in the last two years in ireland.

“The single standout improvement is my positioning and playmaking abilities on the ice, like knowing where to be at the right time and where my team mates are on the ice at a certain time.

“The highlight currently would be winning a big tournament in November. In the semi final, I was awarded my first star of the game (man of the match).”

Since then, I’ve started to improve and my ambitions have changed slightly. I would still love to be a coach later in my career but I also think I work hard this year and next year I could maybe make it to a low professional level of hockey and get some good experience through a few years or playing in a low professional league.”

Murphy’s targets are modest but also reflect a background the makes competitive ice hockey difficult with many in Canada playing from the same age which Irish kids would take up GAA, football or rugby. Despite the huge disadvantage. something he initially thought would prevent him from doing more than coaching, progress has clearly been substantial.

“I feel like the kids who have been playing since three or four years old are ahead of me on skill and hockey knowledge but I also feel like I’m catching up at a high pace,” Murphy says of his time out in Canada.

“My current club is a development program team which means it takes players from all levels and plays them together, over time leaving the players all playing at the same high level.

“My plan for the future is to work hard on the ice and in school, so I get the opportunity to come back next year, graduate school and develop enough to be drafted in a beginning level professional league or division 3 college team.”

Success there would have several impacts. Validation of Irish hockey’s long-time insistence that the sport has huge potential in Ireland (and should be provided with some form of year-round home base) is one, though perhaps the Belfast Giants have already demonstrated that north of the border.

The pathway potential offered by teams like the Flying Ducks in Blanchardstown is another, and with the Winter Olympics around the corner, there’s also the slow growth of the Irish national team to consider. Murphy might be playing for himself, but in a sense, he’s playing for the Irish league, too.

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