IN the latest edition of our ‘U23s in profile’ series, where we get to know the career path to date of our young players, we speak to goalkeeper Murphy Mahoney.
After joining the R’s in 2012 at the tender age of 10, Mahoney has since worked his way through the youth ranks in W12 - making his QPR first-team debut in our away clash with Preston North End earlier this month.
From ball boy at Kiyan Prince Foundation to shot-stopper, the 20-year-old has rightly earned himself the chant ‘He’s one of our own’, as he relishes his opportunity with Mark Warburton’s side. The appearance at Deepdale is a moment he will never forget.
“I have now played at every level here at QPR from Under-10s right through to the first team and I am buzzing really, I am really happy,” Mahoney said.
“I had been at Wycombe for two years, and we had played a few games against QPR at Harlington. Wycombe’s academy closing meant I had to find a new club and the goalkeeper coach here phoned my coach at Wycombe asking if I could come. I did, I loved it and signed a few weeks later - the rest is history.
“As a youngster the plan wasn’t really to be a goalkeeper. I remember when I was younger, I always played outfield, I played centre midfield for my Saturday team (Caversham AFC) and even as I got older, I enjoyed being outfield as well as in goal.
“But my older brother used to play as a striker and my uncle played outfield as well, so whenever we had a kick about in the garden, they would throw me in goal and smash balls at me, so that’s how it started.”
As Mahoney made his way through the R’s youth ranks, being a ball boy in W12 saw the young 'keeper watching Joe Lumley up close, who a few years later would go on to be a team-mate of Mahoney’s.
He explained: “I think over the course of my scholarship I was ball boy five or six times, but I remember one game, we played Millwall and Lumley was in goal. I was right between both the QPR and the Millwall fans, I’m pretty sure we won as well so that’s always a good thing!
“But those sorts of experiences really helped me see a pathway when I was younger, all the 'keepers I have worked with - Seny [Dieng], Lummers etc - have been at the club a long time and worked their way through the ranks, so to progress through every age group has been good. I love it here and my ambition has always been to just keep progressing.”
Alongside fellow 'keeper Joe Walsh, Mahoney was promoted to the first-team squad last season and has been working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to ensure that if a chance to impress came his way, he was ready.
He said: “It has been brilliant for me and Walshy, after Joe signed last winter and I got promoted to train with the first team, we have worked with some top 'keepers which is just brilliant.
“We both look to learn as much from the other lads as possible, how they are in the changing rooms, how they conduct themselves on the training pitch, how they prepare, and you take those little things and try to implement it and see what works for you.
“Of course, with the likes of Seny and Joe you have seen that they have been here from a younger age and worked their way through, gone out on loan and come back and been given an opportunity - so it’s really encouraging and motivating as a young 'keeper at this club."
Since the turn of the calendar year, it’s been no secret that the R’s have felt the full impact injuries can have on a squad, and the absence of no less than six different goalkeepers during three crazy months is surely unprecedented.
However, one person who has been raring to go throughout this period was of course Mahoney, who at the drop of a hat was able to step in for the R’s for the moment of his career so far.
He explained: “Just after Christmas when Seny went away with the AFCON and then Jordan [Archer] got injured in the cup game, David [Marshall] came in and Joe [Walsh] was number two and I was number three.
“So, from then on, I was always thinking one more injury, illness, COVID, anything and I will be on the bench, so in my head I was just staying ready and if called upon, I would be set to go.
“Obviously, Joe got injured, Seny came back and got injured, then David pulled up at Nottingham Forest away. So Keiren [Westwood] came in and I was on the bench.
“I always thought there was a slight chance that I could be in with how the injuries and things have gone this season, so I made sure I was always prepared to play and fortunately I got my chance.”
Warburton’s side headed up to Preston on April 9th 2022, with Mahoney preparing to take his place on the bench once again. But illness to Keiren Westwood in the warm-up saw Murphy lining up for the R’s with just 20 minutes' notice, in a whirlwind of an afternoon for the young 'keeper.
“I was upset for Westy with the way he had to pull out of the Preston game at such short notice, and I had to make sure he was alright and everything, but inside I was buzzing as I knew this was my time.
“It happened in the best way possible to be honest, if I had known a few days before or whatever I may have built it up in my head, but because it happened 20 minutes before the game, I didn’t have time to overthink it.
“My family have been at every game, have seen me on the bench numerous times, but annoyingly they didn’t go - my mum tried to persuade me to get her tickets on the Friday, but I said no - just come to the next one as I will only be on the bench again, so she wasn’t there.
“But in an odd way I think I preferred it, of course I would have loved my friends and family there supporting me, but it just took away those extra thoughts in my mind and allowed me to concentrate on playing my game.
“I went in, got myself ready, Charlie [Austin] and Stefan [Johansen] put their arms around me and just said. ‘We watch you in training, you are good enough so just go and do your thing’ which put me at ease. When I came running out a bit earlier, where I had to go across the pitch to my goal, all the QPR fans were clapping me which made me feel ten-feet tall.
“Hearing the fans singing my name meant so much, I felt on top of the world, with them all behind me I felt like I could do no wrong, it really put me at ease.
“Obviously, Preston is a difficult away game, we were on a difficult run of form, and it could have been overwhelming - but I just loved it and I will forever be grateful for that moment.
“I am desperate to play more games now, I would love to be QPR’s number one, but I know we have some extremely-talented goalkeepers in the building here.
“So, for now I will be ready in case another chance comes my way. I know I need to keep working, gain as much experience as possible and will hopefully in a few years be able to really push for that number one spot.”