On the quiet days during his recovery from injury, Conor Murray saw it all flash before his eyes and threaten to pass him by. On the loudest days, he watched on as Munster descended on Lansdowne Road and couldn’t get it done without him.
The shoulder injury he suffered in Cardiff on March 11 has robbed two months of his season and he’s frustrated at missing out, but there remains much to play for.
Now, he says he is ready to return. Whether Munster decide to give him a dry run against Connacht tomorrow remains to be seen, but the home Guinness PRO12 semi-final is inked into his calendar as the day he’ll prove to Warren Gatland and everyone else that he is fit.
His season has already been epic, encapsulating his 10/10 performance in Chicago, his battles with Glasgow and Scotland and Munster’s redemptive run.
After being cut down, he is ready to roar back with the Lions and while the enforced break took away so much, it may yet prove to be the oxygen that fuels the rest of his season.
“I’m not a good spectator, especially when you know you can add value or you could be out there,” he reflected. “The England game was really tough to watch. It was really exciting. I was so happy for the lads to put an end to the English run, deny them a Grand Slam and put in a big performance to finish the Six Nations was awesome.
“Missing the semi-final in the Aviva was probably the most frustrating to be honest. Seeing the Aviva full of Munster supporters; the noise, the atmosphere, the potential to reach a final, the regret that you could have done something to help... it was a terrible time to get injured.
“I’m through it now. I feel I’m ready to play. There’s big games left in the season domestically, there’s the tour. If you were looking at missing that through injury it’d be really hard to take, because I know it’s going to a really exciting tour, a massive part of my career hopefully. So it’s great to be back, but it’s been a frustrating six or seven weeks.”
Ireland’s victory over New Zealand in Chicago has faded into memory, but its place in the muscle memory will do some good next month.
Gatland has already referenced it as an inspiration, while All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was quick to point out that his side have already gotten revenge. But the nature of the win and the fact that the world’s best appeared human for a fleeting afternoon will be of assistance when the going gets tough. For all of that, Murray says the Lions must find their own way.
“It was an awesome day. But it was a completely different team,” he said. “From an Irish perspective, having beaten them, you’re definitely going to take confidence from it.
“At the same time, when four countries come together you’ve got to gel. It’s going to be a new team and we have to figure out how to beat them with that team.
“Chicago was a long time ago. You take confidence from it but it’s not the be all and end all and it mightn’t be our tactics.”