The door closed today in Mardyke Street and the best-known medic in Irish sport finally put his feet up.
Dr Con Murphy’s retirement means he can play a few extra rounds of golf, get some more jobs done around the house for Joan, and maybe finally get around to writing that autobiography he’s threatened us with for years.
He has a title already in mind, he often says: “They Wouldn’t Listen To Me.”
It’s been a quick four decades and change for the Doc. He was at the old Cork dog track one Saturday evening in the mid-70s, a newly-qualified doctor perusing the odds, when Denis Conroy of the Cork County Board sidled up to ask about his plans for the following day. The hurlers were out against Tipperary but didn’t have a medic.
Less than 24 hours later, Dr Con was in a dressing room watching Christy Ring complain out loud that he’d given up his holiday in Butlin’s to watch the Rebel hurlers stutter to a win.
Three years later, he bumped into Ring on the street as a potential fourth All-Ireland title in a row loomed for those same hurlers. The Doc asked if there’d be team changes in the push for four; Ring’s reply echoes down the ages: “Con, we’ll stick with what we have ’til we find better.”
A chat with the Doc is inclined to be anecdote-heavy, which is hardly surprising for a man with the starriest contacts list in Irish sport. Start with the great Kerry side of the 70s and the men he got to know interning in Tralee (“He’s an institution in the GAA, in Cork and Kerry and in every other county,” Mikey Sheehy told this newspaper earlier in the year. “You’d never hear a bad word about him. He’s so obliging, he puts everyone ahead of himself.”).
Go on to the great Kilkenny side of the noughties, or the all-time Dublin side of the last few years, they all seek him out after the final whistle, from Brian Cody to Stephen Cluxton.
Nicky English of Tipperary still puts Dr Con’s name down as his doctor if he goes to hospital; an Irish rugby squad platooned in Cork a few years ago on a training camp had him in for an evening of yarns.
That’s all ecumenism, though.
He has just the one true faith really. Dr Con was the Cork footballers’ mascot back in the 1957 All-Ireland final when they lost to Louth, the first time he saw grown men cry: there were a lot more tears shed for the red and white jersey since then.
When the Kingdom won an All-Ireland a few years ago and brought the cup to Cork to warm a few exiles, Tomás Ó Sé extended an invite to the Doc to drop in and see a few mates.
The intent was genuine. The refusal was polite. “He’s Cork behind it all,” as Ó Sé says.
You can’t really ask a Rebel footballer or hurler of the last 40-odd years to talk objectively about Dr Con. They take the invitation as a starting point to outline what he’s done far above and beyond the call of duty and the subsequent conversations range far and wide.
Those conversations always start to wind down with an offhand remark, some version of the longest-running truism in Cork GAA (“He really is the extra selector,”), and sometimes they conclude with a less offhand description of a chat with the Doc in Mardyke Street when he suggested gently that it was time to step behind the line.
They listened to him. They always did.