Óisín and Seán Murray. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
The Murray twins, Seán and Óisín, will break a twenty-year-old record on Sunday when they line-out in the senior final.
They will become the first set of twins to feature alongside each other in the decider since Mickey and Alan Rooney for Ardee, St. Mary’s in 1997 – coincidentally, the year the Murrays were born.
The boys recently celebrated their twentieth birthdays (October 4) and, while the perfect gift – although belated – would be a championship medal, breaking the Rooneys’ record would be a proud moment.
It’s not something they have given much thought to, in fact, they sounded slightly dumbfounded when the record was put to them.
“I hadn’t thought if any twins had played in the final before. Twenty-years is a long time ago, it’s actually twenty-years since we were born,” said Seán, who adopted the spokesperson role in our three-way conversation.
Óisín continued: “Obviously, it’s something very rare, but from when our Dad used to play with Monaghan, in 1985, he played alongside his brothers and even playing in a final with your brothers is rare enough, but to do it with your twin is massive.”
Despite not achieving much in the way of silverware through the underage ranks, where the Blues stood in their way more often than not, the boys are not immune to what success resembles. Their father – Ciarán – holds legendary status in his native Monaghan after captaining the Farneymen to his second Ulster Championship medal in 1988.
He also claimed an All-Star award during his distinguished inter-county career. However, while the bar was set high in terms of what their father achieved during his playing career, they don’t live in fear. Paternal pressure has never been applied.
“I don’t think we ever thought there was pressure. I suppose we were born into a home where straightaway we saw his All-Star award and we would be like ‘oh, what’s that’ or ‘what are those medals’,” Seán explained.
“But from a young age, I wouldn’t say I felt any pressure and when I think about it now I think ‘look at all these things Dad achieved, yes, I’d like to achieve some of them’, but I don’t think there is any pressure.
“Dad is happy that we’re doing our best and trying to do our best for the Gaels seniors and the team is doing very well. I suppose that is the most important thing.”
But Ciarán has undoubtedly had a big influence on the course the twins took in football. And, while he may not be directly involved in team affairs, he still plays a big part, particularly in their physical development.
“Since we were five-years old in the Gaels nursery, Dad, Paul Morgan, Noel Sweeney, Robbie McCrave and Mickey Sharkey all put work in and that was the first real foundation laid for us,” said Óisín.
“All the way up from U12 to minor, Dad and a few of the others were always there and now, apart from Noel Sweeney, we have different people over the team.”
Seán picked up on the point.
“Under our last manager, Lenny (Harbinson), Óisín would have featured a lot more than I did. My first senior start was against Roche in a pre-season game (Sheelan Cup game) and I ended up damaging my AC joint so I was out for a good few weeks after that and when I came back the league was well underway. That meant that I wasn’t going to be involved in the championship.
“I also needed to do a lot of strength and conditioning work because when I first started, having come through from minor, I was definitely too light to play senior so I’ve done a lot of work on that and Dad has helped us along.
“He’s helped us to make programmes and Shane Rice, before he went to America, he was always into strength and fitness so he helped out the whole Gaels senior team back in January.
“And it’s not just me, I think that’s helped a lot because there’s a lot of younger lads. The likes of Chris Sweeney and Conor Morgan who are playing a lot more because we have gotten a lot stronger in the last year or year in a half with the strength work.”
Personally, being the same age as Seán and Óisín, this reporter rubbed shoulders many times with them. They have been team mates, while on the odd occasion that Roche have reached the required level to play the Gaels, we have been enemies.
Our first encounter came as U8’s. I was midfield for Naomh Bríd and facing the twins, who made-up the Gaels’ centre-field pairing. While not knowing one from the other, there came a point when we became colleagues on the North-Louth U13 development squad.
A sense of familiarity set in as did the ability to distinguish Seán from Óisín and vice versa. Though, for the lay onlooker, it wouldn’t have been so easy as wherever one is, the other is generally not far behind.
This has continued through school, sport and now into third-level education.
“We have always been on the same teams and in the same class at school. Mam and Dad started us off playing the same sports when we were young and even though we were in different positions, we have always been on the same teams,” Seán said.
“I think it helps training and playing with your brother because there is always a friend there. It was very good especially from a young age, but now that we know all the team it doesn’t really come to mind that my twin is playing. He’s just another player.
“But I suppose there is that twin telepathy where I sort of know what he’s going to do before he does it and that does help as we have known each other for so long.”
“We’re both doing Global Business and Spanish in DCU,” Óisín explained
“It’s a small course, there’s only 16 in our class. But myself and Seán both went in together so it was nice knowing someone when we went in the door and one of our best friends, Brendan Shiels, is doing the course as well.
“It really helped us settle into college too, especially moving up to Dublin which meant living away from home for the first time and even like if I’m being lazy at college he can help me out with some of the work,” Óisín, the wing-back quipped.
The conversation progressed to fallings out. Assumedly, bromances have their tricky spells too…
Óisín – “On the field, I can’t remember a specific example of us falling out, but I know off the field we have had plenty of arguments as all brothers do, especially being twins. We’re with each other most of the time so of course we have fallings out.”
Seán – “When we were younger, we probably fell out a few times. Óisín was running through for goal and I thought he should have passed the ball to me, but he didn’t and I would have given him an earful.
“Though, that doesn’t happen too often now because he doesn’t really get goal chances,” he laughed.
Hence, an ultimatum. The Blues are a point up and Seán is to your left, what do you do Óisín?
“I think I’m passing it to him all day long,” he responded promptly.
“We had a friendly game earlier in the season and I had three goal chances and I missed every single one so in the moment of pressure I think I’ll pass it to him. He’s the forward and the one who should be finishing the goals anyway.”
Their course instructs on spending time in Spain, something which could see them miss a portion of the Gaelic season in the coming years. However, they insist that the depth in their squad of “near 30 players” could cope with a period of absenteeism on their behalf.
Looking ahead, should the Gaels win on Sunday, one would expect a tremendous outpouring of emotion. But who would the boys automatically look for upon the final whistle, would their “telepathy” attract them to one another, first and foremost?
“I’d say I’d probably be running to whoever is closest to me and celebrate with them,” said Seán.
“When we win things it normally hits me like a wave of emotion. I’ll be delighted, but you’ll go over and say ‘good game’ to your man and the players on the other team.
“Then, we’ll group together and I’ll probably see Óisín and give him a hug,” he laughed, “then we’ll wait until we’re presented with the trophy.”
Contrary to perception, Seán’s reply was ‘off the cuff’, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. But that’s their nature, they have always been confident lads and they embody the confidence that the Gaels are playing with at present.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday, and whether the Gaels end their 55-year wait for Joe Ward, Séan and Óisín will achieve something enviable, a rare feat they will proudly possess no matter if they go on to repeat their father’s successes or not.