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St James’ football manager Stephen Murray excited by his new challenge 

April 7th, 2024 1:00 PM

By Sean Holland

Former Carbery Rangers footballer Stephen Murray is manager of St James' footballers.

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STEPHEN Murray hasn’t had to travel too far for his first management role.

Only ten kilometres separate his village of Rosscarbery and Ardfield, home of St James’ premier junior footballers. 

Murray (39) was part of the Carbery Rangers team that won the club’s first-ever county senior football title in 2016 and he still lives in Ross – but he has a connection to Ardfield, too. His wife, Aileen McCarthy, is from the area, and three of his brother-in-laws are involved with St James’ footballers – Micheal (Brittas) and Donnacha are still playing, while Seamus is a selector on Murray’s management team.

Last season, the Rosscarbery man was a coach under then player/manager Alan O’Shea, who has since taken on a new role this year, as manager of Argideen Rangers footballers. Ardfield didn’t need to look too far for their new manager: Murray got the gig. His management team includes Seamus McCarthy and Diarmuid Keohane, who were both involved last season, and Denis Fitzpatrick and Sean Keohane.

St James kicked off their McCarthy Insurance Football League Division 7 campaign with a long trip to Ballyhooly last weekend, and a good run in the league is targeted before the Carbery club’s second season in the county premier junior championship later in the summer.

‘The aim is to get a good start in the league and get a base for a championship,’ Murray explained.

‘If we can get promotion, it would be brilliant. We were close enough to it last year, and finished third. Promotion is ultimately the aim but you would also be mindful of the other side of it, too. Any team that finishes the bottom two is going back down to your divisional league. 

‘We had a good league last year, it went well and the lads enjoyed it. We’re playing different teams than we were used to and you hope that bit of experience from last year would help them.’

Last season was a step into the unknown for the 2022 Carbery JAFC champions as they left the familiar environment of Carbery and entered the county scene, and different teams from different divisions.

‘It definitely made a big difference last year. You're getting away from the norms that you've had over the last 10, 15 years. You're playing different teams, you're seeing different styles and different tactics being used as well against you,’ Murray explained.

‘What I found last year was that a lot of the games were much more open in the premier junior grade. I think you find it in inter-county and the higher levels, like senior games, they're negative and defensive. Everyone's afraid of losing and afraid of being too open. But as you go down the levels, you can see more entertaining games. Just look at the premier intermediate final last year, it was much more open than the senior one that followed,’ explained the St James’ boss, who will also be hoping for a good campaign in the premier junior championship. The football gods weren’t kind though – St James will play Kilmurry, Canovee and Cobh in the group of death.

‘We got a very tough draw last year and it's the same again this year,’ Murray agreed.

‘Canovee are after coming up, they’re going to be bouncing and they're very young. Kilmurry are the same – a very good side, very well balanced and strong. Cobh as well, another top side. You're playing against quality teams.’

Murray hopes to build on the experience he gained last season to help St James make an impact this year.

‘One of the big things I found was dealing with the hurling/football mix and the split-season aspect. My own club, Carbery Rangers, is pretty much a football-only club,’ he explained. 

‘The split season is a huge positive from a club perspective, but in St James, with hurling and football week-on and week-off, it's hard going. It's very hard on the players; that's one of the big things I noticed last year. It's trying to manage that a little bit better within the year, trying to find a balance.’


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