Con Murphy - Cork's Greatest Gael   08/10/2022

The following article appeared in the match program for the South East JAHC Final with our former Chairman John Twomey paying tribute to his friend & past Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Con Murphy.




On 28th October 1922 Con Murphy was born in the townland of Toureen near Innishannon. He was one of seven children born to Dan and Julia (Nee McCarthy) in a difficult year when our new state was in its infancy and torn apart with civil war and strife. Attending his local National school he learned his history and began to swing a caman.  He got great encouragement at home too and his mother was a camogie player in her earlier days.  Secondary education was scarce and expensive then and beyond the financial capabilities of most families. Great sacrifices had to be made by parents to get a family member into a Secondary School. The North Monastery Christian Brother’s School was chosen for Con. A new and exciting phase in his life would now begin here.


The youngster from Toureen settled in to his new environment quickly and his hurling prowess was soon under the microscope. He had all the attributes for greatness and to be a great hurler in the future. He captained The North Mon Senior Hurling Team to win two Harty Cup titles, and of course The Cork Selectors quickly got to hear and take an interest in the Valley Rover’s rising star.   In 1942 he joined The Cork Senior Hurling team, captained by the great Jack Lynch.  He also joined fellow Clubman on that team, Con Cottrell, (later to be ordained a Priest).  He won his first All Ireland medal and added three more in 1943, 1944 and 1946.  He added a National League medal in 1948 and collected four Railway Cup medals with Munster. He played Senior Hurling with Carrigdhoun and was on the team defeated by Glen Rovers in 1945.  Con told me that losing that final was one of his greatest disappointments ever and he would have given back some of his All Ireland medals to replace them with a County medal for Carrigdhoun.   Con loved his own place and his own Division.  He gave sterling service to his own Club Valley Rovers and speaking to players who played against him over the years, they were all unanimous in praising and admiring this great sportsman who played the game fairly and honestly. Con took up Refereeing and officiated at two All Ireland Finals in 1948 and 1950.


In 1938 in his sixteenth year he began to represent his Club at the South-East Cork Meetings.  He had an eye for the workings of the GAA and befriended many Club Delegates and Officers including the then Divisional Secretary Paddy Sisk, who would become a life long friend.  He joined Paddy as one of the Division’s Delegates at Co. Board.  He had his first introduction to the running of our affairs at County level. He was elected Chairman of The South-East Board in 1948.  Between 1951 and 1956 he served both as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of Cork Co. Board.   Then in 1956 he succeeded the late Sean Og Murphy as Hon. Secretary of the County Board and held office until 1976.  As Secretary of our Board he proved and demonstrated what a great Gael he was.  His commitment and attention to his duties and responsibilities will never be matched.  Everything was done with great passion and conviction.                                                                                                                                                                 

I had first hand experience of Con Murphy’s daily duties in the County Board Office in N0 4 Cook Street in the centre of Cork City.  I worked in an office straight across the street on the first floor and had a clear view of Con’s office and what went on inside.   Each morning Con would be in the office before 8am to check the post and deal with other matters.  Just before 9am he would leave and go to his place of work in Liberty Street. At 1pm he would return and spend another hour diligently attending to more matters.    At 5pm in the evening he would come back for the third time, and spend another hour more. The Board held weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 8pm.   I can well recall attending my first meeting there in 1965.  I went up stairs and sat on an empty chair just inside the door. Very quickly, I got a tap on the shoulder from a gentleman, whom I later learned was Denis Conroy, and he told me to go to the back of the room as I was sitting on Theo Lynch’s chair. Theo ( a brother of the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch) represented the City Bord Na nOg at the meeting.   It was my first County Board meeting with Con presiding as Hon. Secretary. Weeshie Murphy was Chairman that year. These were the days when communications were totally different to what prevails in 2022.   Phones were rare, and in some areas the only one was in the local Post Office. However, our Runai Con Murphy was top of the class in this area.   At each meeting fixtures would be made for the following Sunday and beyond. When the meeting was finished and when everybody had departed, Con would stay on, sometimes into the early hours of the following day. He would write out all the match notices on post cards and then travel to the Post Office Sorting Department in Brian Boru Street drop them in. Many of the delegates who would have been at the previous night’s meeting would have these post cards delivered by the postman before they got out of bed the following morning.


In 1976 Concubhair O’Murchu was elected National President of Cumann Luath-Chleas, the highest honour that can be bestowed on any person within the GAA. He was following in the footsteps of his uncle, Sean McCarthy who was elected President for the period 1932 to 1935. It would prove to be a unique and historic year for Con, as he officially opened Pairc Ui Caoimh, a project he had already put so much work and effort into.  He presented the Liam McCarthy Cup to the Cork Senior Hurling Team on winning the All Ireland and he would go on to repeat the honours in 1977 and 1978 when they completed three-in-row during his term in office. He had a great passion and commitment to the Irish language where ever he went.

During his Presidency, the troubles and turmoil in Northern Ireland were in a very serious state. It was not a safe place for GAA personnel, their properties and facilities.   Crossmaglen Rangers in South Armagh had their playing pitch and buildings commandeered by the British Army to be used as a base and a launch pad for operations in that part of the Province.  This action was unprecedented and there was widespread fear that this could be repeated in other Clubs. Con Murphy used his term in office to work tirelessly and intervene on behalf of the Club with the Army and British Government. On his numerous visits there, he made sure he was heard and a change of attitude followed, maybe not as fast as first wished but the trend was right which led to the property being fully vacated and later appropriate monetary compensation agreed. This work, involving much travel, encounters and meetings were often, risky, intimidating and dangerous. Crossmaglen Rangers Club later wrote ”So wherever and whenever great Gaels and Great Irishmen are spoken of, surely the name of Con Murphy will immediately come to the fore. He can stand and be recognised, and take his rightful place amongst the great Irishmen of Ireland.”


When he stepped down from the Presidency of the GAA he immersed himself in many other tasks and offices. He became a Junior B Hurling Selector with his own Club Valley Rovers, something he relished as it brought him back to his roots and origins. In 1985 he was elected Chairman of Cork Co Board and after completing his term of office he was elected Chairman of the new Cork Minor Board. He was honoured by his own Carrigdhoun Division by being elected President for Life. The Junior A Hurling Championship Trophy bears his name “Corn Choncubhair O’Murchu”. Afterwards he was elected President of Coiste Chontae Chorcai.  In 1995 he was made a Freeman of Cork City, the highest honour to bestow on a citizen, by the then Lord Mayor Councillor Tim Falvey. Over seven decades he played many distinguished rolls in the GAA as a Player, Mentor, Officer and in Senior Administration.   I was privileged to be one of his guests at that historic function, something I will always remember and relish. He gave a lifetime of service to an Association he treasured and nurtured, while he had strength of mind and body:  He was born on the 28th October 1922 and died on 28th April 2007.  His removal and funeral Mass were huge. The then President of the GAA, Nicky Brennan from Kilkenny led countless numbers from throughout the Counties of Ireland. He was laid to rest in his own place, St. Mary’s Churchyard in Innishannon, where it all began. Suaimhneas Siorai da Anam.

Con was married to Tess Barry-Murphy and they had four children, Noel, Brendan, Marie and Aine.                                                                                                                                                  

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