Seán Murray – Too many to take on?

by Jason Keelan

131130-sean-murray-4x3286-1217890_478x359Born and bred in his current borough of Watford, Murray has been a feature of The Hornets setup since his introduction to the youth setup at the age of 9. Since then, he has been in the eye-line of the powers that be at Vicarage Road, as well as those across the water in Abbotstown, where he claims the link to the Green jersey through his grandparents in Cabra. Murray’s first goal for the club in a 3-2 victory over Leicester back in 2012 was the start of a great run in the first team, and cemented his name among the faithful as “one of our own”.

His declaration for Ireland at underage level brought him directly into the U17 setup, before progressing through the ranks at U19 and U21 level. To date, Murray has appeared in the yellow 76 times, scoring 14 goals, which is a decent return for a young man who was in danger of being exiled to the reserves by manager Sean Dyche in 2012, after just one momentary appearance in the first 23 games of that season.

The real point for discussion on Murray is not so much the colour yellow, but rather the green in his footballing life. Being a midfielder at Watford, many have compared his beginning to that of former Hornet and current Red Devil, Ashley Young. Tricky, pacey, versatile and tenacious are just some of the superlatives attached to him at this point in his growing career. So how come Murray’s flair and obvious talent haven’t brought him into the Irish set up?

The easy argument for his lack of involvement in the past is generally attributed to the reign of Trapattoni, who stood firm in his selection process of picking ‘the usual’ team, ignoring many of the emerging talents both at home and abroad. Since the departure of Trap, messrs Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have found the time to both scout and include the newly-found, media-recognised talents, who were overlooked in the past.

For Murray, the development of the likes of Robbie Brady, Anthony Pilkington,  Wes Hoolahan, and others, have meant his inclusion is maybe a friendly or two away yet. Even young Conor Clifford found his name on the panel for a friendly in recent times. Murray has shown himself to have an eye for goal, a technique as a set-piece specialist, and a passing range that once even brought him into the eye of Manchester City.

So where does Murray fit in? Turning 21 soon and with a Watford Young Player of the Year under his belt, Murray could be forgiven for asking questions as to why he hasn’t had his chance to fulfil his international ambitions. Good wingers are what Ireland, and most teams, desire. Martin O’Neill has generally developed teams with a sense of attack, but equally very strict in defence. Murray has proven himself to be a good all-rounder in both areas of the pitch, perhaps even more-so than some of those already in the Irish set-up in similar positions. It could also be argued that Murray could merit a place on the panel ahead of the likes of Connor Sammon or Stephen Quinn, who have never really shown their best in the Irish jersey. Surely with a talent like Murray, it would be beneficial to give him an opportunity for Ireland, if not for the experience, but even the exposure to the public, many of whom may not be aware of his talents.

One thing that may be in favour of Murray is the age at which the Irish youth appear in the first team, particularly in his area of the middle third. Those who Murray would challenge for a spot in the team would have made their debuts close to the age Murray himself is – McClean, McCarthy, Brady all made their Irish debuts between the ages of 20 and 22. The notable exception to this would be Aiden McGeady, who burst on the scene with his flair and speed in 2004 against Jamaica, having just turned 18.

For Watford, having someone with the skill and maturity of Murray will help them in their quest for promotion in 2014/2015. The impression he has made on the local fan-base, who chant a personalised song for him each week, will help his cause for a spot in O’Neill’s Ireland set up. Timing may not be on his side in the immediate, with the Euro 2016 qualifiers starting in a few short weeks against Georgia. O’Neill is almost sure to stick with his tried and trusted for the campaign, with improving performances and results the key to boosting Irish positivity towards the team. Although it is clear Murray would bring excitement and a new flavour to Ireland, his position is currently filled with a mixture of relative youth and experience in McClean, McGeady, Pilkington, Brady et al, and one waits to see what position O’Neill and Keane take on his future.

Without a doubt, it would be a terrible shame if Seán Murray doesn’t make an appearance in the Irish jersey soon. Certainly he is a talent which we should see in the future, but for the moment, the yellow of Watford is where his passion lies, and being a major focal point of attack for his team in their push to the top tier of English football. Only then will the people have a chance to see this man take on the world’s best at all levels. Without doubt, a man who will open the cheque book of a top club in the next couple of seasons, and (hopefully) open up international defences in the future also.

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