Tribute to Mick Murphy - A hero of 1955

March 3rd, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

Mick Murphy full forward on the legendary 1955 Kerry team that shocked Dublin in one of the most dramatic of All Ireland finals was laid to rest last Tuesday week in his home parish of Ventry. I would never apologize or make excuses for boasting that this win was in my opinion the greatest I have ever seen by a Kingdom fifteen. I can't say it was the greatest before or since because it was the first final I ever saw and Mick Murphy was the first full forward I ever saw playing for Kerry in an All Ireland final. There have been many great men in the green and gold who operated in that onerous position on the verge of the square since I first watched Mick Murphy but he holds a special place in my heart and mind.

The position of full forward demands many different attributes and while the game has changed greatly since those far off days of the middle fifties nevertheless a match is often decided by on the display of the man wearing the number 14. The player who lines out here must first of all be brave, invariably the full back is big and strong and has the huge advantage of at all times coming from behind his marker and this gives him a huge advantage. It is vital that the number 14 has great hands and can field the ball comfortably both high and low. He must have great vision, be quick to lay off the pass to the incoming team mates and of course must be able to take his scoring chances himself when the opportunities arise. Mick Murphy had all these attributes and he was as they say a natural full forward. In those days as Mick met up with full backs such as "The Gunner" Brady of Cavan, Hugh Francis McGribben of Derry, Jack Lavin of Dublin, Paddy Driscoll of Cork and others bravery and strength were of the essence. And in Mick Murphy Kerry had a man who would as the fellow said "mixed it with the best". 

Other men I have greatly admired and who have manned the edge of the square for Kerry in All Ireland finals since I first marveled at Mick Murphy included. John Dowling, Tom Long, Mick o Dwyer, D J Crowley, Liam Higgins, Mickey Sheehy, John Egan, Eoin Liston, Tommy Doyle, Dara o Cinneide, Liam Hassett, Johnny Crowley, Declan o Sullivan. Kieran Donnaghy and of course Maurice Fitzgerald. "Bomber" played full fordward in seven All Ireland senior finals. I had the great privilege of meeting Mick at various games around West Kerry when I was a mentor with my own club Killarney Legion and I always found him quite, pleasant and very unassuming. Memories of long summer evenings back in the fifties are crystal clear in the minds eye and watching the Kerry teams of that golden era training in Fitzgerald Stadium. Back then we youngsters could stand in the field with the players as they went through their various drills. And the one memory that remains vivid is the dashing Mick Murphy banging in goals as if they were going out of fashion as the squad played "backs and forwards". He was a prolific goal scorer and why he stood out for me above all others is the fact that he always wore a royal blue Munster jersey with the Munster crest emblazoned on his chest. Even last week following his burial one of his team mates of the victorious Kerins o Rahillys winning county championship team of 1957 Micheal Kerins told me that Mick always wore that same Munster blue jersey when playing with the Narries. A picture of that winning team verifies this as Mick stands at the rear proudly sporting the Munster jersey.

He played in four county finals, three with Kerins o Rahillys, winning in 1957 and one with Dingle in 1951. Dick Fitzgerald's won this one.  He was also selected on the Irish team of 1956 when Ireland beat the pick of the combined Universities. He played for Munster in 1956-57-58 and won Munster medals with Kerry in 1953-55 and as captain in 1958.  Defeat was his lot as Derry shocked Kerry that rain lashed day in Croke Park in '58. A teaches by profession Mick began his serious football career with Geraldine's in Dublin before John Dowling pulled the strings to bring him back to Kerry and a career with Kerins o Rahillys. Amazingly he began his football career as a corner back with Kerry in the Munster final of 1953 when Kerry beat Cork in Killarney 2-7 to 2-3. For the record that Munster final team which showed many changes later on for the All Ireland final was Donal "Marcus" o Neill, Mick Murphy, Ned Roche, Jerome o Shea, Colm Kennelly, John Cronin, "Mixi" Palmer, Gerald o Sullivan, Brendan o Shea, Paudie Sheehy (Captain), Sean Murphy, Tadghie Lyne Jim Brosnan, Sean Kelly, Jackie Lyne. Subs used Tom Ash, Bobby Buckley. Captain Paudie Sheehy was sensationally dropped for the final as Kerry beat Armagh.

The 1955 Munster final winning team on which Mick won his second Munster medal and which also showed numerous changes for the All Ireland final against Dublin lined out as follows. Garry o Mahoney, Jerome o Shea, Donie Murphy, Mixi Palmer, Sean Murphy John Cronin, Bobby Buckley, Dinny o Shea, John Dowling ( Captain), Paudie Sheehy, Tom Moriarty Tadghie Lyne, Gerald o Sullivan, Mick Murphy, Dan McAuliffe. Subs used, Johnny Culloty, Ned Fitzgerald, Colm Kennelly.

Mick captained Kerry in the loss to Derry in the 1958 All Ireland semi-final, 2-6 to 2-5. Donal "Marcus" o Neill, Jerome o Shea, Ned Roche, Jack Dowling, Sean Murphy, Tom Moriarty, Mick o Dwyer, John Dowling, Seamus Murphy, Mick o Connell, Tom Long, Tadghie Lyne, Garry McMahon, Mick Murphy (Captain), Paudie Sheehy. Subs. Tom Fitzgerald, Tim "Tiger" Lyons, Kevin Coffey, Tom Moriarty, Ned Fitzgerald, Brendan Galvin. Tom Fitzgerald was in goal for the Munster final win over Cork 2-7 to 0-3.

Mick Murphy helped shape the history and traditions of Kerry football and played a huge part in that greatest of all championships triumphs in 1955 as Kerry beat the so called unbeatable Dublin machine. He was predeceased by his wife Kathleen and to his daughters Mary, Siobhan, and Breeda and his sons Thomas, Padraig, and Kieran we extend our deepest sympathy's.

Ni bheidh a leithead ann aris.

Ar dheis de go raibh a-anam dilis.

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