Dr Con Murphy: The GAA has made my life and I would be lost without it

‘Being mentally engaged as you grow older is critical, and talking with family and pals is something we must keep doing,’ Dr Con Murphy tells Colette Sheridan
Dr Con Murphy: The GAA has made my life and I would be lost without it

Dr. Con Murphy at the CUH. Picture Dan Linehan

Going on seventy-two, the legendary Dr Con Murphy (physician to the GAA in Cork for forty-five years) says that he felt "young enough in my mind" to work until he was seventy. "I was enjoying it so I kept going."

When he finally retired from his practice on the Mardyke, he was able to hand over his patients to his son, Colm, a GP. "Colm is down the street from where I worked and on the day I retired, my computer company pressed a button and all my data went to Colm. It eased the pain of retiring and my patients were delighted. It was a big help to them."

Looking after The GAA

Dr Con, as he is known, explains that Colm is now the main doctor for the hurling team while Dr Aidan Kelleher looks after the football team. "I'm the supporting act." In 1976, Dr Con (who was working in Tralee General Hospital at the time) ran into Denis Conroy from the County Board. "Denis asked me if I was going to the match the next day. Cork were playing Tipp in the first round of the championships. I said I was driving Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who was a sub, to the match. Denis said they had no doctor and asked if I'd stand in. I said 'no problem' and the rest is history." Dr Con's work with the GAA is voluntary and he also worked for the UCC teams. It's a way of giving back and being involved in a community that he loves.

Asked how he is finding retirement, he says that in the context of Covid-19,"It's hard enough. It mightn't have been too hard if we weren't cocooned but I've disappeared off the planet, obeying all the rules, staying at home with my wife, Joan. Normally, I'd be at matches or training. You'd meet fellows. But I haven't been able to do those things so I have felt very isolated. I miss the contact with those people."

However, Dr Con hasn't been forgotten. He receives a lot of phone calls from friends and past players that he has dealt with over the years. "That's very nice. It's very touching."

A people person

Dr Con is on social media but not very actively. Occasionally, he puts up old GAA photographs of past days which "fellows find interesting." He misses face-to-face meetings with friends. "I'm what you'd call a people person. That has been taken from me. The retirement has been a double whammy if you like." “Being mentally engaged as you grow older is critical and talking and meeting with family and pals is something we must keep doing.” Asked if he feels younger than his age, Dr Con says: "I do and I don't. What frightens me about being on social media is reading about the amount of people, my age, who have died. They would be pop stars, actors, famous footballers, hurlers and soccer players. I'd be looking at my own age and adding and subtracting. It's scary."

Is there longevity in his family? "My mother died when she was ninety. She was mentally perfect until the day she died. My sister Ann died from cancer aged 49. My father (a well-known footballer known as 'Weesh') dropped dead at 54 in 1973 a couple of hours after the All Ireland final between Kilkenny and Limerick. That was a huge shock to us all. From being a typical Irish housewife, my mother became a librarian at UCC. She loved that. It was the making of her. We all stayed at home for a long time. "

Asked about his health, Dr Con says it's reasonably. "I had a ruptured bowel a couple of years ago which set me back a bit, but I got over it. I have blood pressure (problems) and a few small things but by and large, I'm good. I go out walking every day. I would say it's essential for anyone to go walking."

Dr Con, who says his wife has very good health, gets up every day at 9am. He reads the Examiner, goes for a walk, reads sports books, has a light lunch, watches "Dáithí and Maura every day. I enjoy that. I like the exercise sessions on their show – with simple tips on stretching and exercising. It is important as we get older to have daily routines that keep the body moving and stretching. I like to cook. I've always had an interest in it. I cook fish mainly. We don't eat much meat now as my son doesn't eat it. Fish is easy to cook and good for you. I buy it from my friend Pat O'Connell and Liz in the English Market."

Early to bed, at 9pm every night, Dr Con records programmes which he catches up on during the day, mostly current affairs.

Does he follow his own medical advice? "I'm not one for lecturing people. But I'd be the go-to person for a lot of people in sport because of my profile in the GAA. I've made a lot of contacts over the years. What can keep me busy is people ringing me for the phone numbers of other people. I have quite a collection. I'm like a GAA directory."

Community is key

Having a stake in your community is important and especially in the latter years. It keeps people active and connected. I have got involved with the Cork University Hospital Charity to help spread the word about positive ageing – exercise, eat well (try to have your main meal during the day and don’t go to bed on a full stomach, plenty of water, sleep is vital and talk to friends regularly.

"The GAA has made my life. I'd be lost without it. I thought it was important to bring my kids up in the GAA, in Bishopstown. It's a great community."

But Dr Con warns against having an obsessive interest in sport, to the detriment of family life. He thinks that when we come out of the pandemic, there will be changes in our society.

He says that he thinks "fellows will see that there's more to life than training all the time. It can be all-consuming. I have noticed that there seems to be more players who have retired in the last few months than normal. It started with Covid. It dawned on people (that obsession with sports can be unhealthy)."

Dr Con is under a certain amount of pressure to write his memoirs. "People say I have to write a book. And publishers have been on to me. But I find it hard to remember the details of the matches. And I'd be afraid I might offend someone. With the time I have left, I don't want to be worrying about anything. A book would worry me."

Be realistic

Final words - be honest with yourself in terms of health. I thought I was doing enough but I have been putting on weight and feeling sorry for myself. As part of the healthy ageing campaign with the CUH Charity I have set a target to lose a stone in the next few weeks. I know that will improve my health and please God keep me away from hospitals. I want to ask the GAA community and all the people of Munster to get behind this positive campaign. Let us be kind to each other. The want to thank the incredible selfless staff of the CUH and all hospitals for the incredible work they have done for our community.

More in this section

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Execution Time: 0.244 s