Tributes flow for ‘unique character’ Murphy

Tributes have been paid to Irish cycling legend Mick Murphy who will be buried in Caherciveen, Co Kerry this morning.

Known as the Ironman because of his ferocious tolerance for pain and suffering during his short cycling career, Murphy won the 1958 Rás a year after taking up the sport.

In 1959 he attempted to defend his title, despite riding several stages with a broken collarbone.

Tom Daly, author of ‘The Rás — the story of Ireland’s unique bike race’, said Murphy was one of the inspirations behind the book.

“I remember reading a newspaper article in the Kerryman in the 80s about this guy who had won the Rás and the stories that abounded about him just seemed too implausible to me,” said Daly.

“I’d heard about his win in 1958 and started to corroborate with a few sources and I found every story to be true. His training habits, his working life, his knowledge. I had to meet him.

“The next issue was actually finding him — he lived a really reclusive existence. When I eventually got him I can safely say I had never met anyone like him before, nor have I met anyone like him since.

“There will never be another Mick Murphy. He was unique but I wouldn’t want him to be defined as just a cyclist. He was a unique character; he was a performer, an artist, a wrestler, a local celebrity and would regale the many visitors to his house on his exploits and opinions. When I first found him there was no glass in the windows of his house, but corrugated iron.

“He invited me in, collected some dried some furze bushes and he lit the fire for me. That was the way he chose to live his life.”

John Mangan, from Killorglin, is one of six Kerrymen to have won the Rás and though too young to have raced against Murphy, recalls an extraordinary personality.

“I knew of him for years and years. He was a very colourful man, full of knowledge of how to train and keep fit. The thing about Mick was he didn’t take up cycling until his mid-20s.

“It’s fair to say, you won’t find a man like him again, he adored publicity, he read a lot and did things long before they were fashionable, like weight training. What struck me was for a fella who lived in isolation how tuned in he was; I’d often drop into his place and he’d tell you everything about the weekend’s racing. He’d be inside home listening to Radio Kerry, nothing would get past him!”

Tadhg Moriarty, another well-known name in Irish cycling who directs the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan each year, said Murphy was “an eccentric loner”.

“I know of him all my life, everyone in Kerry would; he’d be one of the legends of Kerry sport. He lived an extraordinary life; he was a circus performer for a while, he travelled all over Europe, he was a professional wrestler for years, he worked in Germany for a while. For a fella who lived on the side of a hill outside Caherciveen he’d seen a lot of the world and accomplished an awful lot.”

Requiem Mass this morning at 11am. Burial afterwards in Sugrena cemetery, Caherciveen.


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