Poignant letter written by Kerry Footballer Jack Murphy in 1926

June 20th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

Historic letter written by Kerry Footballer Garda Jack Murphy following the 1926 All Ireland Drawn Final. He died before the replay. Our thanks to his great grand nephew Joe McGill for allowing us to make it available to followers.

Bryan Sheehan and Maurice Fitzgerald with the Jack Murphy Cup
Jack Murphy was a native of Ballycarberry. He joined the garda and won his first All-Ireland in 1924. He played in 1925 and again in 1926 when Kerry drew with Kildare in the All-Ireland final. Jack was the hero in the drawn final with a man of the match display. He organised collective training in Tralee for the replay. The 'Over the Water' man was put up in a B&B in Tralee where he developed pneumonia perhaps from wearing wet clothes after training. Jack was very ill when Kerry won the replay and he died 11 days later at the tender age of 22. A cup in honour of Jack Murphy was donated in 1969 by his family to the St. Marys club for an inter county tournament on whit Sunday. When the county leagues put paid to these tournaments it was given to the south Kerry board for the south Kerry championship. It was first presented by chairman Micheal Lyne (grand nephew of Jack) to Joe Joe O Sullivan, winning captain for Renard in 1975.

Jack's sister Nell gave the letters to her nephew Denis Lynch who in turn gave them to Mary Ann McGill grand niece of Jack Murphy. Below is the letter to Nell Flahive, Jack's sister, who later retired from America to Ballybunion with her husband Jim.

Phoenix Park Depot,

My Dear Nell,

"We lined out against Kildare at 3:30 before a gathering estimated at over 40,000. It was some crowd indeed. We were really lucky to make it a drawn game as we were outclassed for at least 40 minutes of the game but the boys make a grand rallying in the last quarter of an hour and equalised. Nevertheless I think we were unlucky in the closing stages in not winning by the smallest of margins. However we will have another day to decide the issue. The crowd went frantic with excitement when we drew level can still picture headgear floating in the air. I met Denny (Jacks Brother) on our way to Barrys and he was scarcely able to speak,  you can imagine the excitement that prevailed. We spent a most enjoyable evening in Howth and got back at 2am but did not get to bed till 6 am absolutely fagged out. The replay may take place on the 10th of October and all are looking forward to the keenest of struggles. Which will I am sure will surpass any of the old time encounters with Kildare. The match was broadcasted during the play so that many had full details without going to see it. Phil Sullivan was injured but may be fit for the replay. I am sending you a couple of press cuttings just to give you and Jim an idea of the match though I'm afraid one of them is rather flattering in the extreme. However it will make good reading for you too who will be interested. I am sure we may go to Tralee again for training at the end of the month . My letters will be forwarded however. so I will be eagerly awaiting a line from you and Jim"

With best wishes to yourself and Jim from Your affectionate brother,


Sigerson Clifford wrote The Ghost Train for Croke Park ballad about this drawn All Ireland Final with Kildare. The last 2 verses are

Then the soft grass and the sunshine and the marching of the bands
With the green and gold flag fluttering over all
There's Con Brosnan running swiftly and our Sheehy shooting low
And Larry Stanley jumping skyhigh for the ball.
It put the heart across me when the leather grazed our goal,

And my throat with shouting tattered like a scraw
There was never sweeter music than that final whistle blown,
And the board said, let me whisper, 'twas a draw.

Loud and long we held the inquest steaming home from Dublin town
And we wrote down who kicked well and who played poor
But John Pete agreed with me that all the luck was with Kildare
And Bob Doyle maintained we'd win the next time sure.
We still chalked up the scoreboard and the chalk was green and gold,
Said the Tailor, white teeth grinning like a shark,
Sure we only took their measure and we'll cut the cloth to scale
When we take the Ghost Train three weeks for Croke Park.

Here is an extract from The Kerryman newspaper in 1926 about Jack Murphy's funeral.

Kerry Footballer's Funeral - Jack Murphy Laid to Rest

6th November, 1926

Few deaths in recent years have occasioned such widespread manifestations of regret as that of Sergt. Jack Murphy, C.G., Cahirciveen, member of the Kerry Football Team.  Only in his 22nd year, Jack Murphy still retained his boyish characteristics.  Quiet and unassuming to a degree, deceased was a universal favourite with his colleagues at the Depot, the Gaels of the country with whom he came in contact, and with the general public.

The large concourse of people which followed the remains to their last resting place; the many messages of sympathy received from all over the country, and the large number of floral tributes placed on the grave, all bore testimony to the popularity and respect in which the deceased was held.

On Wednesday, 27th inst., the remains arrived from Tralee, and were met by a huge crowd of people and borne to the O'Connell Memorial Church, where they remained overnight.  High Mass was celebrated on Thursday morning.  Very Rev. Canon Browne being celebrant, Rev. T. Curtayne, C.C., deacon, and Rev. J. Prenderville, C.C., sub-deacon.

 In the afternoon the funeral took place to the burial ground at Kilavarnogue.  There was a large attendance, despite the inclemency of the early morning.  High placed officials of the Civil Guards and G.A.A. were present.  Chief Superintendent Stack (Depot) represented General O'Duffy; others present were Supt. Hugh Duffy, Adj. Depot, Headquarters, Staff, Supt. P.J. Colleran, Gardai A.A., Sergt. M. Lane, Gardai Paul Russell, P.J. Ryan, J.Clifford and J. O'Connor represented Kerry men at the Depot.  Chief Supt. P.J. Clinton,Tralee, and Supt.R.J. Heydon were in charge of the Kerry Gardai, of whom there was a large party.

 The Kerry County Board and the different Kerry Divisional Boards were represented.  Others in attendance were:  Mr. P. O'Keeffe, Secretary Cork County Board G.A.A.: Jerry O'Shea, Ml. Murphy and D. O'Donoghue.  The members of the Kerry Football Team, with the Gardai, marched after the remains, as did the members of the Kerry Selection Committee.  The cortege was preceded by the Killarney Pipers Band, which played appropriate selections of sacred music,

 The chief mourners were:- Pat Murphy (father), Mrs Murphy (mother), Thade, Pat and Denis (brothers) Mrs. M. Lynch (sister),  Mrs. J. Murphy, Mrs Donoghue (aunts), James Griffin, MI. Griffin (uncles), Michael Lynch (brother-in-Law), Mick Donoghue, Jack Donoghue (cousins).

 Wreaths were sent by the following:  'As a token of remembrance, from comrades of the Kerry team'', "In loving memory of Jack Murphy who won the All-Ireland for Kerry,  September 5th. 1926, from Killarney Dr. Crokes'', "With deepest sympathy from Tralee League'', "With deepest sympathy, from Dr. Eamon O'Sullivan'', "With deepest sympathy Barry's Hotel" Dublin'';  "With deepest sympathy North Kerry League''; "With deepest sympathy to the family of Kerry's andIreland's greatest full back,  E. Kerry League''; "In fond remembrance and deepest sorrow,  Cahirciveen  G.A.A.'';  "With deepest sympathy from Depot Hurling and Football Clubs'';  "With deepest sympathy, N.C.O.'s , Phoenix Park''; "In fond memory of our dead comrade, officers N.C.O's  and men,  C.G. Tralee''; "With deepest sympathy, officers, N.C.O,'s  and men H.Q. and Depot''; "Deepest sympathy, from officers, N.C.O.'s and men Crime Branch, Depot''.

 Gen. O'Duffy wrote as follows:

"Your wire intimating the death of Sergeant Murphy came as a great shock, as I understood from Dick Fitzgerald on Sunday that he was on the way to recovery.  I take this opportunity of asking you to kindly convey, to his relatives and to the County Board and the Gaels of Kerry, my deep and sincere sympathy.  I regret that the rejoicings over the Kingdom's great  victory should be so soon marred by the death of one who played his part in that noble achievement.  Since the Sergeant joined the Garda Siochana, he proved, in his own modest and unpretentious way, a faithful and efficient member and from my personal knowledge of his character and worth I believe he would have had a very successful career; but God willed otherwise.  Jack Murphy was a credit to the G.A.A., and the Kerry County Team and the Garda Senior Football Team mourn the loss of a stalwart champion in whom both shared pride''.

 Mr P. O'Keeffe, Secretary Cork County Board wired as follows:

"Gaels of Cork shocked at sad news.  He is not alone a loss to Kerry, but toIreland''.

 Larry Stanley wired:

"Greatly shocked to hear of death of Ireland's best, Jack Murphy''.

Other messages of sympathy and condolence were received from:  Mr.  W.P.  Clifford, Limerick, President G.A.A.; Mick Sammon, Dublin; Jimmie McNamara, Tipperary; Jerry Beckett, Glanmire, Co. Cork; Phil Sullivan, Dublin; Tom Noonan, Cork; W.O'Leary, M.C.C., Lixnaw, Miss Farrington, Barry's Hotel Dublin; etc.etc.

 The Kerry and Garda colours were laid on the coffin; also the deceased footballer's togs.  When the grave had been covered in, the Killarney Pipers' Band struck up "Nearer my God to Thee''.

Very Rev. Canon Browne, P.P., assisted by the local clergy, officiated at the graveside.

An oration was delivered by D.Donoghue,Cork, in which the speaker referred in eulogistic terms to deceased's worth as a comrade and Gael – R.I.P.

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