If the GAA is a rich tapestry of culture and community, of hope and heroes, there’s very little of it that former Cork GAA secretary Frank Murphy hasn’t seen.
Forty-six years at the helm of the association’s largest unit came to an end at the tail end of 2018.
On Friday night, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh it was an occasion for remembering the good and acknowledging the bumps on the road along the way.
Since Murphy’s appointment as county secretary at 27 years old in December 1972, Cork have won a whopping 63 All-Ireland titles, including nine senior hurling and four senior football, as well as 138 Munster championships and 12 national leagues.
The early years of the 2000s were dominated with off-field controversies, namely the players’ strikes, but in saluting his decades at the helm of Cork GAA, it was an occasion to lay down arms and look to the future.
The Blackrock man didn’t have to look too far — only outside the window — to speak of that future.
“It is one of the most remarkable developments in the association,” Murphy said looking out onto the Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch from the South Stand.
“It is the second time we have developed the stadium from the old Cork Athletic grounds, the original Páirc Uí Chaoimh was developed in the 1970s, it was very modern at that time and it served its purpose.
“When you plan for a development of this size you would be looking forward to over 30 years of the stadium being of the calibre that you require it to be,” Murphy said, emphasising how crucial the upkeep of the ground will be.
“It is going to be important along the way also that we ensure it is kept in pristine state, the stadium itself and the field and that will be a challenge for future generations.”
In reflecting on times past, thrilling and turbulent, Murphy said there was one achievement that stood out above all else.
“People will have their own memories of all of these games and the achievements of these teams but from a historic viewpoint, the winning of the two All-Ireland titles in 1990 was essentially unique.
“It hadn’t been achieved in 100 years and when it was, by a Cork club team in the 1890s, the playing of the finals fell over a two-year period and at that time it was the clubs representing the counties,” Murphy added.
“In the time since (the 1890s), over the course of 100 years, no county had managed to achieve winning the two All-Irelands in one year, it really was a remarkable achievement by the teams at that time — the hurling team led by Tomás Mulcahy and the football team led by Larry Tompkins.
“(They were) trained by two training geniuses in Canon Michael O’Brien (hurling) and Billy Morgan (football), two men who gave wonderful service to our county as coaches in their respective spheres.”
The tribute dinner gave those in attendance, not only the chance to reflect on past glories, but also a chance to catch up with those who played a part in so many of the great days in Cork GAA.
“I have been honoured by the staging of the event,” Murphy said. “It is such a representative gathering, not alone of people from Cork but from all over Munster and Ireland, led by the Uachtarán of the association, John Horan.
"To see these people who are part and parcel of the history of Cork GAA, the captains of these teams, the coaches, the trainers and the administrators (is an honour).”
Murphy added: “I have served under 16 county chairpersons and many of these were people who served at higher levels in the association at provincial and national level also,” he said.
“We were gifted with wonderful people who acted as treasurer over the years, people like Gene Fitzgerald, Derry Maher who gave a lifetime of service to the city, Dan Hoare who was a tremendous, enthusiastic, larger-than-life figure, and one of the greatest volunteers that this association in Cork has had in modern times, Pearse Murphy.
“Our current treasurer, Diarmuid Gowen, is following in the footsteps of his illustrious father who served the county as an officer for 20 years, including three years as president, so there are some wonderful people who have served this Association and served it with distinction over that period of time.”
While there are great people in Cork GAA’s past, Murphy, too, is keen to look to the future Rebels who will keeping our native games alive.
“We look forward to other great leaders leading the Association well and in particular I wish our new secretary Kevin O’Donovan great successes and satisfaction in the job that he is undertaking.”
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