He returned ‘home’ expecting to attend a retirement party for his brother Liam, but former Cork dual star supreme Brian Murphy was the centre of attention at the Nemo Rangers complex on Saturday night where he was honoured for his remarkable sporting achievements.
Excellently organised and ably presented by Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh, who, with his wit and vast knowledge of GAA lore, charmed an appreciative audience which featured over 30 All-Ireland medal-winners.
Foremost among them were teammates on the Cork football team of 1973 and the three-in-a-row hurling team of 1976-’78 along with All-Ireland medal-winners from Dublin, Kerry, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Limerick, Wexford and Offaly.
There to honour him were such luminaries as Eddie Keher, Babs Keating, Tony Doran, Jimmy Keaveney, Mikey Sheehy and Pat Hartigan, reflecting the regard and respect he gained over a glittering inter-county career which saw him emerge as the only player in the history of the GAA to win All-Ireland medals at minor, U21 and senior in both hurling and football.
Keher was one of five winning hurling captains present, the others being Eamonn Grimes, Ray Cummins, Charlie McCarthy and Brian Hogan.
Hogan lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup for Kilkenny last year as a proud O’Loughlin Gaels man – where Murphy, a Kilkenny based Garda, has dedicated himself as a coach for over 20 years.
On an unforgettable trip down memory lane, spanning 17 seasons between 1968 and 1984 — when he won 16 All-Ireland medals at inter-county, colleges and club football level, along with NHL, Railway Cup and All Star awards in both codes — the combined contribution of Sheehy and Sean Walsh provided one of the highlights of the night.
Recalling the infamous 1976 Munster football final replay at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Ó Muircheartaigh asked the Kerry legends if Murphy had ‘really’ caught the ball behind the line – before ‘a dodgy’ Tipperary umpire flagged a goal. “In fairness, Brian was yards behind the line,’’ joked Sheehy. However, Walsh, who took the actual shot, gaining possession from Sheehy’s free, disagreed.
“I don’t think it was a goal,’’ he commented. “I think Billy (Morgan) had been arguing with the umpire before that. Definitely, he stopped it on the line.....It was Billy’s fault.’’
Denis Allen remembered him as a ‘born leader’ from the time they crossed swords in street leagues, with long-time club mentor Paddy O’Sullivan pointing out that he had been part of an ‘exceptionally dedicated’ group who enjoyed success all the way up to county senior championship level.
Both Pat Hartigan and Eamonn Grimes spoke about his innate ability as a defender, as well as focusing on the 1968 Harty Cup final, when Murphy was a key member of the Coláiste Chríost Rí team which prevented Limerick CBS from winning a fifth consecutive title. That marked the beginning of his distinguished ‘Roll of Honour,’ with the first of two All-Ireland football colleges medals – the second coming two years later against a St. Malachy’s team which included current Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill.
Cork secretary Frank Murphy was also lavish in his praise, being a selector at minor, U21 and senior level for six of his All-Ireland medal successes, “If all our players were as easy to deal with, as players and as gentlemen as Brian was, we would certainly have no grounds for complaint,’’ he said.
Babs Keating felt that as ‘a hurler and footballer he was unique,’ adding that he would have been ‘willing to cycle’ from Dublin to pay his tribute.
Tony Doran described him ‘as one of the cornerstones’ of the Cork team which beat Wexford in the finals of 1976 and ’77. Martin Quigley saw him as a corner-back in the traditional mould... “Thou shall not pass... tenacious, tough, very sporting but you were not going to get by him.’’
Ó Muircheartaigh regaled the audience with the statistic that, in the 1976-’77-’78 hurling finals, the amount of times that he ‘struck the ball’ could be counted in single figures. Conversely, the amount of scores against him was ‘in smaller single figures!’
Billy Morgan remembered him as ‘a shining light’ on the Nemo under-age teams, that he ‘was earmarked for stardom from an early stage.’
The O’Loughlins connection – maintained through the involvement of his sons Brian and Stephen – was highlighted by club chairman Mick Nolan, who pointed out that he was the first player ‘with a senior profile’ to come to their young club in 1989.
Since then, he had distinguished himself as a dedicated coach and during that time, brothers Andy and Martin Comerford, along with Brian Hogan, captained Kilkenny.
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