Thursday 21st May 2020
The late John Murphy
Coiste Chontae an Dúin and the entire GAA community of Down are saddened to learn today of the death of one of our favourite sons, John Murphy. He was an All-Ireland winner as a player in 1968 and then Peter McGraths right hand man in the management team during the successes of 1991 and 94. We extend our deepest sympathy to John’s wife Veronica, his daughters Niamh and Fiona, sons Gavin and Karl, his grandchildren and the entire Murphy and Sands family circles. We also extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the Gaels of Newry Shamrocks who have lost an outstanding servant of their club.
Today the GAA world in Down is a poorer place with the loss of a man who gave outstanding service and commitment to his county on and off the field of play across five decades. John first came to prominence on the teams of Abbey CBS where he won a MacRory Cup Medal in 1964 in a victory over St Pats Cavan. It would be natural then that John would go on then to wear the red and black, and in 1966 he was midfield on the side that was beaten by Mayo in the All Ireland Final. It was to be a lesson learned in Croke Park on that day, and John was one of six members of the team who would feature two years later, on the successful senior side.
He won a National League medal in May 1968 when Down defeated Kildare, and John Murphy was now an established member of what became an outstanding forward line. In that summer of 68 brought, the Anglo-Celt Cup returned to Down, and in the Ulster Final against Cavan John scored two points and gave an outstanding performance when moved to midfield in the second half.
The All Ireland Final of 1968 was a day when John Murphy lived the boyhood dream and scored an opportunist and well taken goal eight minutes into the game to put Down firmly on their way to a third All Ireland title. It was a special day for the Murphy clan, as John’s uncle, the late great TP, was then County Secretary and a member of the management team. The boy had become man, as in that final against Kerry, he finished the game playing at left-half-back and was one of the heroes of the hour.
John won Railway Cup medals with Ulster in 1970 and 71. He won another Ulster title with Down in 1971, before losing to Galway in the All Ireland semi-final. His last Ulster Final appearance was in the final of 1975, which ended in defeat to Derry.
John had a wonderful football brain and was a man of wise counsel. When Sean Smith returned to manage Down again in the mid-1980s, he took with him his former player John Murphy as his selector. Together, they guided Down to the Ulster Final of 1986 where they lost to Tyrone.
When Peter McGrath took on the role of County Senior Team Manager in the autumn of 1989, he turned to John again as a selector, once again John Murphy was to have a significant impact in that role. John had presence and status and had a great ability to relate to players personally and to get the best out of them in turn as footballers. In team management, he was never one to shy from debate whilst fully respecting the final decision. As a player and as a selector, John always served and acted in the best interests of Down football. He was loyal too to his friend and colleague Peter McGrath, and when the time came in 2002 for that great era in Down football to end, John was still there with Pete.
We in Down GAA have been privileged that John Murphy was part of our story. He was a man of integrity and a man of honor; someone who lived the dream of playing for his county, winning an All-Ireland, scoring that famous goal and then of helping to shape two Down teams to win All Irelands. He enjoyed the reunions with playing colleagues from those great days and of growing older with the boys of 91 and 94, He had his favourite seat in the stand at Pairc Esler and watched the next generations give of their best for both Down and Newry Shamrocks.
Men like John Murphy helped to make Down the proud GAA County that it is today, he was a great ambassador for Down, he was man who loved his football, he loved his County, his Club and most of all he loved his family. On behalf of the Gaels of Down we say thank you for the wonderful days that you gave us. To his wife Veronica, to his children Niamh, Fiona, Gavin and Karl, to John’s grandchildren, his daughters in law, his brothers and sisters we once again offer our deepest and heartfelt sympathy on the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather and a brother.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.