Getting to know: Frank Murphy

Daniel Barnes
29 November 2017

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Frank Murphy would have been the first man to play in the Guinness PRO14 and then referee in the championship had the fixture list been just a tiny bit kinder.

The 35-year-old former scrum-half, who played in the 2007 Premiership final and Heineken Cup final for Leicester Tigers in between spells at Munster and Connacht, hung up his boots in 2014 and then took up the whistle.

He quickly rose through the IRFU’s Inter Provincial Appointments System before being added to the National Panel of Referees in February 2015 – but he wasn’t the only rookie ref about to cut his teeth.

On November 27 last year, he was handed his first appointment in the then-Guinness PRO12 to referee the Dragons’ clash Edinburgh at Rodney Parade but former Glasgow Warriors man Mike Adamson was given Munster’s game against Benetton Treviso, which took place a day earlier.

Nonetheless, Murphy, who first picked up a ball at Crosshaven RFC, hasn’t looked back since and is now a member of the Guinness PRO14 elite referee squad.

“I always thought about it when I was playing, that when I finished playing, I wanted to try and stay in the game in some capacity,” said Murphy, who played more than 100 times for Connacht.

“I wanted to stay in the game and get back to the level that I played at, and I thought this was the most realistic option.

“I thought it was a really nice way to stay involved on the pitch because in coaching, you’re not really as hands-on – you’re out there running around with the lads.

“My first game as a referee was when I refereed a local school here in Cork called Presentation Brothers College.

“I remember it because Presentation were a rival of my old school, CBC (Christian Brothers College) Cork, and secondly, the coach of the Pres team was an old teammate of mine and he found it quite amusing that I was running out as a referee.

“It was Anthony Horgan, an ex-Munster player. There was a bit of fun had, I suppose, on the sideline – at my expense.

“I don’t remember much about my first game refereeing the Dragons against Edinburgh but I remember being very excited about the game.

“I remember that it was certainly great to be back out there, albeit in front of quite an animated crowd, which Newport always give.”

Refereeing on the Guinness PRO14 circuit is a picture-perfect experience for Murphy, who also works as an illustrator.

The most memorable moment of his officiating career so far came just before he took charge of a game in the championship, with Murphy named as an assistant as the Maori All Blacks took on Munster at Thomond Park.

Pre-match, the tourists paid a touching on-pitch tribute to former Munster head coach Anthony Foley, who had died in his sleep the night before his team were due to take on Racing 92 in Paris in October.

The Maori All Blacks performed the famous haka and presented Foley’s sons Dan and Tony a shirt bearing the late coach’s initials.

Murphy added: “I wasn’t refereeing but I was on the sideline and I thought that was a special occasion considering what had gone on before with Axel (Anthony) Foley, who was an ex-teammate of mine.

“That was a really nice thing to be involved in and was a great experience.”

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