Nineteen year-old Derry City striker Conor Murphy talks about growing up Crumlin, signing for the Candy Stripes and explains why his mother has made the biggest impact on his life so far.
Signing for Derry City was about much more than just playing football for Dublin teenager Conor Murphy.
Conor joined the Brandywell club when he, along with everyone else at Monaghan United, were released from their contracts when the club went into liquidation last month after financial problems.
The striker had initially agreed to join Cork City and was preparing himself for the journey south when his mobile phone rang.
“When I saw the Northern number come up on my phone, I had no idea who it could be. I answered the phone and it was Declan Devine [Derry City manager]. I had agreed to join Cork City but after chatting on the phone to Declan for 20 minutes, my mind was made up, I wanted to play for Derry City.”
Conor was born in Crumlin in south Dublin in November 1992. He’s the oldest of four children. His mother Donna works in a local flower shop in Crumlin and his father, Derek, is a postman.
“My parents split up when I was young,” said Conor.
“It was very amicable and as a result I remain very close to both of them. I lived with my mother but when it came to football my father was the only person I needed to talk to.
“I turned to my mother when it came to everything else. My mother has been there for me every step of the way.
“I was a bit disappointed a few weeks ago when I found out two days before the Shamrock Rovers game that I was suspended. My mother and a few friends and family came the whole way up from Dublin to see me play. My mother ended up watching the match beside me in the stands,” he laughed.
Conor started playing football for his local team, Lourdes Celtic F.C. when he was five years-old and stayed there until he was 13.
St. Kevin’s Boys was the next stop for Conor and he played in the same team as Manchester United and Republic of Ireland U21 Robbie Brady and Derby County player Jeff Hendrick. However, disaster raised its unwelcome head when Conor was diagnosed with meningitis when he was 14 years-old.
“We had a really good side at St. Kevin’s when I was there and a few of us had trials across the water. I’d been to a few big clubs including Chelsea - it was actually while I was on trial with Chelsea that I first met Patrick McEleney - we’ve known one another since we were very young.
“I was knocked off my feet for three months when I diagnosed with meningitis - I never thought I’d get another chance to shine at a big English club again.”
Fortune favoured Conor as within a few months of getting out of hospital he started to attract the attention of both Middlesbrough and Hull City.
“I was over the moon when I found out that I was getting another shot at making it as a professional footballer. I met with both Hull and Middlesbrough and opted for Middlesbrough because their youth system seemed pretty good.”
At the age of 16 Conor signed a youth contract with Middlesbrough but his time at the Riverside Stadium was short-lived as he started to feel homesick and returned home to Crumlin after eight months.
“I’d say that in terms of my football career the eight months spent with Middlesbrough were the best so far - I learnt so much.
“I came home at Christmas time and didn’t want to go back. It was strange because I was enjoying my time there but being at home and being around my family made me even more homesick.
“If I am honest, I am annoyed with myself for not going back - I’d give anything to have that chance again,” said Conor honestly.
Word spread around Dublin that Conor had returned home and Shamrock Rovers’ reserve team manager Declan Heavey notified then Hoops’ boss Michael O’Neill of his availability.
“Michael spoke to me and said that liked the type of player I was. I stayed with Rovers for a year before moving on.”
Conor left Rovers at the end of the 2010 season. He spent the dark winter months training with Dublin side Bohemians and in January 2011 he was offered the chance to join Bray Wanderers.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bray,” remembered Conor.
“I had a great debut - we were getting beat 1-0 by St. Patrick’s Athletic and I came off the bench for the last 20 minutes and scored two goals - we won the game.”
It was during his time with Bray that the then 17 year-old Conor started to attract the attention of the Republic of Ireland U19 team. Conor’s debut for the U19s was against Croatia and he went on to be involved in all of the European U19 Championships qualifiers and was part of the team that reached the semi-finals.
“I was thinking of staying with Bray when Roddy [Collins - then manager of Monaghan United] knocked on my door one night.
“I didn’t really know what was going on and I listened to the people who were telling me that moving to Monaghan United would be good for my career.”
Conor signed for Monaghan United in January of this year and despite some promising performances the club announced its withdrawal from the League of Ireland and all players and coaching staff were released.
“It was a mad time, to be honest, and I didn’t really know what was happening. I suppose when you’re experiencing bad times you have to try and find the positives. The positive I came up with was that it was probably best I go through what happened at Monaghan early on in my career as it would help me become more responsible.”
Conor’s goal scoring prowess and creativity had not gone unnoticed at Monaghan. Within weeks of the club’s demise he had attracted the attention of Tommy Dunne’s Cork City.
“I was still living at home with my mother when all this was happening,” recalled Conor.
“I was in talks with Bohemians when Cork City offered me a contract. I had more or less agreed to join Cork on a Thursday but then my phone rang.
“When I saw the Northern number come up on my phone, I had no idea who it could be. I answered the phone and it was Declan Devine [Derry City manager].
“Derry’s interest was completely out of the blue but after chatting on the phone to Declan for 20 minutes, my mind was made up, I wanted to play for Derry City.”
He added: “I knew Derry were a big club and there was the attraction of playing in front of big crowds. Signing for Derry was the best possible move for me. Like I said, I was still at home with my mother where I was having everything done for me.
“Since moving to Derry City I got myself an apartment near the beach in Fahan - it’s really nice. I am now cooking for myself and despite burning a few things, I am learning quickly,” laughed Conor.
Conor’s contract with Derry City is until the end of the season. He’s only played in two games but his pass which led to David McDaid’s goal against league leaders Sligo Rovers at the Brandywell a few weeks ago was a joy to behold.
“I’ve enjoyed the game time I’ve got but as far as I am concerned I still have a lot of hard work to do. First and foremost, I have to convince Declan that I am worthy of another contract next season.”
There’s no doubting Conor’s commitment to Derry City yet it’s understandable that at the age of 19 he still harbours hopes of a second chance at the big time in England.
“Leaving Middlesbrough is definitely a regret. They even sent people over from the club to convince me to stay so if I got the chance to do it again, I’d be delighted. Playing professional football is every boy’s childhood dream
“I’ve heard of the players that Derry has produced over the last few seasons. I know that playing for Derry City is a great platform for getting noticed but until anything else happens I want to concentrate on helping Derry City to do well and win games.”