“It has been absolutely fantastic,” John Caulfield says about the manner in which Annaghdown teenager Alex Murphy has flourished.
Precisely 12 months ago Murphy made his Galway United senior debut against Athlone Town. In the intervening spell Murphy has contributed significantly to earn a move to Newcastle United.
Caulfield acknowledges the journey undertaken. “What people don't realise is Alex came into our academy a number of years ago when he was 14 years of age from Corrib Celtic - a great schoolboy club,” Caulfield says.
“He has done really well. I brought him into first team training - like I do with lots of the academy lads - just to give them experience.”
In the closing weeks of the 2020 season Caulfield was struck by Murphy’s potential. “He impressed me very much towards the end of the short season when I was there,” Caulfield recalls.
“Obviously with Covid kicking in, he wasn't allowed train with us then because he was a minor at the time, he only began training with us properly in May of last year. Then we threw him in against Athlone to give him his first team debut when he was 16 years of age.”
The swift way Murphy settled into life with the United squad highlighted his prowess according to Caulfield. “To think that within 12 months not only has he played 25 first team games, that he has now signed for a premier division team with Newcastle - it is fairytale stuff,” Caulfield adds.
“It is brilliant for our club, it is brilliant for Alex. He is around to play a number of games until the middle of July, then he moves on.
“I think it is great for our academy players to see this - that the opportunity to break into the first team is there. If they are good enough and they show that great attitude that anything can happen for them.
“Young players are being watched all over the world now. Alex has gone from 12 months ago not even being in any Irish squad to be capped at U18, U19, and called into an U21 squad. Obviously not only playing for Galway United's first team, but securing a move to Newcastle United.”
Caulfield frequently invites young players to train and feature in behind close friendly fixtures. Assessments are always being made. “We have to bring them in to see what they are like,” Caulfield responds.
“Have they got the ability to go to a higher level? Sometimes you see so many players with lots of talent - it is how they apply themselves. Can they go to the next level? Do they really understand the hard work that is required to be a professional player?
“I like bringing guys in to have a look at them, showing them the way training is done - the intensity in and around the first team players. Sometimes it is only when they come in with the first team players that they actually realise how good these lads are and how quick the game is.
“Sometimes when you are watching looking in you don't see that or don't understand that. When you come in training you get a feel for it, you realise it, that is why you try to educate younger players.”
Being able to embrace and deal with challenges is critical according to Caulfield. “Initially when you bring guys in then it is the next step - have they got the temperament to go up to another level? Can they handle it? Obviously Alex Murphy had that in abundance, that is why he has done so well.
“Sometimes it happens with players, they come in, they step up, it doesn't happen for them, they find it difficult, they may not have the temperament for it. That can happen too.”
Ultimately Caulfield wants to promote from within. “The more players we can bring through from the academy - I keep saying this - it is better for our club,” Caulfield says. “That is the road we would like to go down. Hopefully over the next few years we will have a lot more coming through.”
**Listen to the full interview with Galway United manager John Caulfield on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.