Beginners Pluck

Joe Murphy

When Murphy was 19, he ruptured his spleen during a football match. Finishing the match, he didn’t notice, until three days later when he collapsed and his heart stopped.

“That happened in 1998, the bicentenary of the 1798 rising,” he explains.

Off college for a year, Murphy read up on the rising, and realised no novels had been written on the subject.

“Twenty-five thousand people died. They deserved their story told. I decided if I ever had the time, I’d write it.”


Date/place of birth: May 31, 1979, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Education: Enniscorthy Vocational College. University College Dublin, English and Sociology. Masters and H Dip.

Home: Drogheda.

Family: Wife Áine. First child due in January.

The Day Job: English teacher at St Mary’s Diocesan School, Drogheda. “I’m a teacher who enjoys writing a good story. Not a writer.”

Hobbies: Playing football.

Favourite Writers: Mervyn Peake; Stephen King; Chuck Palahniuk.

Second Novel: “It’s completely different. It’s called Dead Dog, and is Scooby Doo for adults.”

Top Writing Tip: “Set targets and stick to them. If you start letting them slip, you’ll do anything to avoid writing.”

Web/Twitter: Neither.


Tomorrow the Barrow We’ll Cross. Liberties Press: 13.99. Kindle: €8.72.

It’s 1798. Ireland teeters towards rebellion against the British. Brothers John and Tom Banville become involved. This epic tale of battle recounts the stories of ordinary people, and their heroism, when their land, families and loved ones were under threat.

The book took two and a half years to research. All except the two main characters are based on real people, and the words used, feelings and emotions expressed, come from diary entries and manuscripts from the time. The writing took just five months.

The Verdict: This novel brings alive an important part of Ireland’s past.

— Interviewed by Sue Leonard

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