A bright light went out yesterday in Irish sport and news journalism with the death after a brief illness of one of its best known practitioners — John A Murphy.
The passing of the 71-year-old journalist from Western Bay, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, is mourned by his family and friends and by colleagues countrywide.
Johnny Murphy, as he was known to all, was a sportswriter, news reporter and columnist with what is now the Irish Examiner, and its sister papers, the Evening Echo and the Waterford News and Star.
His earthy personality and his ability to tell stories as well as write them also earned for him legendary status across a broad section of society. A gifted wordsmith, his articulate analysis of GAA games particularly hurling, also meant that he was a regular contributor to radio programmes, especially on WLR.
In many respects, he was one of the last of a generation of all-round journalists that could record court cases in the morning, report on local authority meetings in the afternoon, write a column that night with fluency of style and cover GAA matches at the weekend.
As a sportswriter, Johnny Murphy was respected not just by colleagues but also the wider GAA family.
Last year, he was greatly touched when the Gaelic Writers Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honoured by the Munster GAA Council.
A past Waterford County GAA Board chairman, he was a former Fianna Fáil member of Dungarvan Urban Council and a staunch member of the National Union of Journalists.
A native of Cashel, Co Tipperary, he started his career with the Dungarvan Observer and joined the then The Cork Examiner in 1969 as a news reporter for West Waterford and East Cork.
The kidnapping of Lord and Lady Donoughmore in Clonmel, the arrest of the Claudia gun running ship off the Waterford coast, and the Dungarvan Aids scare were among the major stories he covered.
He was also deeply committed to the welfare of his community. In recent years, he was accorded a joint civic reception by Waterford County Council and Dungarvan Urban Council, was presented with a Service to the Community Award in West Waterford by Regional Media and was surprised with a “This is Your Life” celebration in Dungarvan.
He retired from the Irish Examiner in 2006 but continued writing about GAA games for that and various other publications.
Expressing his condolences to Johnny’s wife Eileen and daughters, Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan said they will be comforted by a huge wave of sympathy from the many thousands of people who ever had anything to do with him.
“It’s a bit of a cliche, but Johnny was something special; a great all-round journalist totally dedicated to his job, very, very funny and with a great attitude to life,” Mr Vaughan said.
Johnny Murphy will be remembered with fondness by a legion of people, all of whom he regarded as his “close personal friends”, and whose lives he brightened over the years with stories and anecdotes.
As they sympathised yesterday with his wife Eileen, his four daughters Jackie, Sharon, Deirdre and Claire and his extended family, they were all at one in saying: “Ni fheicimid a leitheid ann aris — we will never see his likes again.”
*Rosary is being held tonight at 8pm at Kiely’s Funeral Home, Dungarvan. Removal from the funeral home tomorrow at 6pm to St Mary’s Parish Church, Dungarvan. Requiem Mass on Saturday morning at 11am. Burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
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