Donie Murphy RIP

April 16th, 2010
by Weeshie Fogarty

All his old friends and former team mates were saddened to hear of the death at his home in Castlebar Co Mayo last Friday April 16th of the former great Killarney Legion and Kerry footballer Donie Murphy. Donie had been ill for some time but nevertheless when news filtered through of his passing it came as a great shock to realize that the big six foot plus twelve and a half stone brilliant defender had answered the final whistle. Like all his Muckross friends The Legion would be Donnie's first choice club and following his years in the Monastery school he went on and help St Brendan's College to numerous victories. He was chosen for the Munster Colleges side in the Inter Provincial series and went on to win his first All Ireland medal with them. The Kerry minor selectors quickly spotted his budding potential and on October 6th 1946 before a massive gathering of 75,771 souls in Croke Park he held the rising young star that was Kevin Heffernan to one point as Kerry shocked the Dublin favorites storming to a 3-7 to 2-3 victory. Donie had won his second All Ireland medal. He was again a member of the minors the following year as defeat to Mayo was their lot in the semi-final. He went straight into the Kerry Junior side, Meath proved to good in the home final and now the Kerry senior selectors had their sights firmly fixed on the rising young Killarney Legion defender.

In 1948 at just nineteen years of age following a number of challenges games with the Kerry seniors he was called into unexpected action against Clare in the Munster championship when the legendary Dingle fisherman Paddy Bawn Brosnan failed to reach port in time and Donie stepped in for his debut at right corner back. Kerry won easily. Then the following two years he learned the harsh lessons of Croke Park defeats as in 1950 Kerry were defeated by Louth in the semi-final and the following year Mayo proved too good in a re-play at the same stage. However all his boyhood dreams were to come true in 1953 when in one of the most dramatic finals in history Armagh's Bill McCorry missed a late penalty as Kerry triumphed and the Legion great collected his cherished Celtic Cross. More heartbreak in 1954 when Kerry went down to Meath in one of the Kingdom's worse ever All Ireland final displays.

On the 24th July 1955 on a flaming hot day before 45,000 followers in Fitzgerald Stadium Donie Murphy the man from Muckross gave a magnificent display at full back as Kerry defeated Cork in the Munster Final 0 -14 to 2-6. Little did the towering defender realize as he walked off the field that day that he would never again wear the green and gold of the Kingdom. It was his last game for Kerry. A bout of pleurisy in his student days had left its mark. Donie had contacted tuberculosis, much more serious back then than now days. He spent seventeen months in hospital following an operation as Kerry went on to defeat Dublin in that 1955 final. The team visited him in hospital with the cup and among his visitors that day was a young Legion club mate of Donie. Johnny Culloty had come on to the team for the semi final and both men together would help their club to numerous East Kerry title wins. Following his long illness Donie made a come back for The Legion in the county championship against South Kerry in August 1959. He had by then taken up employment in Kilkenny as an Agriculture Instructor. He won two county championships with Clan Na Gael there and played junior football with the county. His very last game was against Kildare in the Leinster junior final in 1964. Donie played with Ireland and the Combined Universities; rowed with Flesk Valley and won a Fitzgibbon Cup Hurling medal with U.C.G. he also held the unique record of winning Kerry football county championships with both The Legion and Dick Fitzgerald's.

A quiet unassuming person he summed up his career when accepting The Legion Hall Of Fame award some years ago when he said. "Thank God for one All Ireland medal, many the great player won none". A native of Castlebar for many years to his wife Pauline, son Anthony, daughters Catherine, Anne, Clare and extended family we in the Legion club extend our deepest sympathy as we bid fare well to one of the true giants of Kerry football.

It was one of the most cowardly attacks ever witnessed on a GAA referee. Ten minutes into the game Willie Barrett was handling a minor skirmish in Tipperary between Carrick Davins and Ballingarry. Suddenly a man banishing a hurly rushed from the side line and struck the unfortunate Barrett from behind in the back. He struck a second time before some players came to his assistance. It was a vicious and most cowardly attack on a highly respected official who has handled Munster and All Ireland finals. So lets be honest about this and the traditions, and I deliberately use that word that is associated with GAA referees. It's traditional in my view that GAA referees are there to be abused.  I have often stated here in this column that I was at the job long enough to have a clear and definitive view of what it's like from the other side of the fence. In my opinion the culture in our national games by many, of course not all is that the referee is there to be abused if it is perceived that he has wronged your team. This is the case from under age right up to senior. I make no apology for stating this as I have attended matches all over the county and have been in charge of teams at all age groups for many years. I have seen vicious verbal abuse being hurled at the man in charge on many occasions, abuse and comments that would make a sailor blush. And I have on many occasions as the referee being the target of such abuse.

Now what we will hear and always do after such vicious assaults are comments such as "sure for all the games played in the country such events are few and far between". Yes that is quite true, however if we were to have documented all the vile verbal abuse and treats that occurs following many games as the referee makes his way to the dressing room then it would be very obvious that that same old GAA culture is alive and well in our games. Many such incidents are reported and honestly dealt with by the relevant authorities. However and I hold up my hand and admit that I was at times party to this, many other incidents are not reported and sadly may be taken as standard. Of course many of our games go off without any incident, however not even one case of abusing, cursing and threatening the man in the middle must be tolerated. Side line mentors have a big role to play in accepting what occurs on the field of play and their behavior can influence many watching. However let it also be said that referees, umpires and linesmen must like everyone else be open to fair and highly constructive criticism from both mentors and media. If one is not allowed constructive criticism of those charged with handling our games then we are on a loser. However not one single incident of verbal or physical abuse most goes unpunished. The aim should be, attain the same wonderful sporting acceptance and culture towards referees that we witness day after day in rugby.

PS. Willie Barrett and I are related. My grandmother from my father's side was Barrett from near Hussystown between Cahir and Clonmel and I often meet Willie a true gentleman on my travels.

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