Johnny Murphy (Cashel and New York)
Posted on Cashel King Cormac's Website, September, 2009
Johnny Murphy has spent most of his life in New York but his love of Cashel and his continued interest in his family and friends there remains undimmed. He is a regular visitor to the town coming to his former home in Moore Lane in the shadow of the famous Rock two or three times a year.
Before his family moved to Moore Lane, they lived at 11 Cathal Brugha Street, where Johnny, the oldest of a family of six, three boys and three girls, was born to Michael Murphy and Elizabeth O'Brien on April 20, 1936. In fact, on the night that he was born his grandfather, O'Brien, was being waked in his home on the boreen under the Rock.
Johnny went to the National School on the Green, where his teachers were Frank Egan and Mr. O'Sullivan. The school went to third class and when he was finished there he moved down to the CBS on the Golden Road where Brothers Ryan, Ford and Nolan, 'a tough man', were in control. The latter was in charge of the hurling team and the game was promoted with missionary zeal in the school. Some years later, in 1963 in fact, Johnny recognised his hurling debt to the Brothers by presenting the Murphy Cup, a Challenge Cup for the Cashel King Cormac's juvenile league competition, to Brother Noonan.
Johnny spent one year in the secondary school before leaving in 1951 and going to work in Arthur Wards at the Back of the Pipes, where his uncle, Paddy O'Brien had a job. Wards was a drapery shop but also carried on a pawn business and issued fishing and gun licences. His hours were 9.30 am to 7 pm, with a half-day on Wednesdays and a longer day on Saturdays, when the shop stayed open until 11 pm!. His starting pay was 2/6, (approximately 16c) and he stayed until 1958, when he was taking home 5/- a week (32c)!
Of his early hurling career, Johnny has this to say: 'I started my hurling career with Cashel CBS at twelve years and won Rice Cup medals in 1948 and 1949. I played minor and senior hurling with Cashel King Cormacs in 1951. We trained a lot in these days and money was scarce. At least three times a week we were in the field training. There were no dressingrooms. We togged out by the ditch, rain or shine, or in the car that brought us to the game.'
Johnny soon came to the notice of the county selectors and was selected on the county minor team in 1952. They beat Waterford in the first round. The selectors weren't happy with the team and held a trial at Thurles the following Sunday. Johnny takes up the story: 'Cashel played Solohead at Tipperary Town earlier that day and beat them in overtime. Michael Davern and I were on the team and rushed back to Cashel to catch the South car going to Thurles. We missed it and Jim Devitt drove us over. We togged out came on the field and were put marking one another. We walked off in protest and were both dropped from the panel. Tipperary went on to win the All-Ireland with Tony Wall as captain.'
Still angry at the way he was treated Johnny failed to go for a trial in 1953, even though he was notified. When the team was picked he was selected at centre-forward. They beat Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Antrim and Dublin to win the All-Ireland. The team was a star-studded one with Ray Reidy, Liam Devaney, Billy Quinn, Liam Connolly and Sean McLoughlin included. He was on the team again in 1954 when they were beaten by Dublin in the All-Ireland. Jimmy Doyle was on goals, Ray Reidy was still there as was Liam Connolly, and the team included Mick Burns of Nenagh and Tommy Gouldsboro, who were to make their names at senior level later.
There was some consolation for Johnny in the same year when Cashel won the 1953 county junior championship, in a replay against Gortnahoe at Thurles on October 3, 1954. Johnny was wing-forward and he and Michael Gayson were the stars of a strong Cashel attack, which ran up a spate of scores in the second-half, when Gortnahoe could manage only a point. Johnny takes up the story: 'It was the first county championship win for Cashel. What a thrill! My uncle, Paddy O'Brien in goal, may father, full-back, Dickie Ivers, Dinny Hickey and Billy Hickey and I, three nephews and a father-in-law ˆ it was a family affair. I believe we were the first father and son in Ireland to have won a championship together.'
Johnny progressed to senior ranks in the county. 'I played some National Hurling League games with Tipperary in 1956 and 1957. In 1958 I was picked for the championship and played right-half forward against Limerick at Cork. With ten minutes to go I was replaced by Liam Devaney and later dropped from the panel. Tipperary went on to win the All-Ireland, beating Galway in the final. Tony Wall was captain, as he had been on the minors in 1952. I lost another All-Ireland medal. I guess I was from the wrong division in the county.'
While still in Cashel he used to play senior football with Rockwell Rovers, together with John Knightly, as there was no senior team in the King Cormacs. He was on the New Inn team beaten by Galtee Rovers, 0-2 to 0-1, in the 1954 West final.
In that year he went to Dublin to play with Faughs, enticed to the club by Tommy Moore, their famous chairman for forty years, who had a pub in Cathedral Street, now the Goalpost, which was the club's headquarters. He played in the semi-final replay against Young Irelands and scored 1-3 in their victory. However, defeat was their lot in the final, played at Croke Park on May 23, when they were well-beaten, 4-11 to 0-8, by New Ireland, who raced away in the last quarter. The Irish Independent reporter calculated that fifteen hurleys were broken during the course of a hard-hitting game.
Johnny got a job at McBirney's on the Quays, after failing to get into Clery's, and continued working in the drapery trade. His new job was much better paid than at Wards. He got a weekly wage of £10 and, when commission for sales was added, it went up to £15 or £16 per week.
This was very good money at the time and Johnny threw it all up when he decided to emigrate to New York a year later.
In May 1959 Johnny, who declared for Dublin that year and was on the panel, met Paddy Fleming, who was home from New York, and he told him that they were looking for a few players and would be be interested. Johnny was and soon after met the famous Mike Flannery at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. Flannery made the arrangements, which included having an x-ray taken that one was free from TB, and Johnny headed for New York.
He flew from Rineanna with KLM. Eight carloads of family and friends travelled from Cashel to the airport to see him off. There weren't many going to the U.S. at the time and he recalls that the cars were like a funeral procession. The flight stopped at Gandar for refuelling and Flannery, his sponsor, was to hand to greet him on landing in New York. He was taken to the apartment of Oliver Spillane from Thurles, who lived in the Bronx and he stayed there for some time.
He landed on Sunday, June 28, too late to play in a match in which he was scheduled to make his debut, got his Social Security number the following day and started working in a warehouse on Tuesday. He stayed at that job until 1966, changed to bartending for sixteen years, did deliveries to building sites for a number of years before taking up his present position as a concierge/doorman in the famous San Remo Co-Operative apartment block on 74th and Central Park in 1988.
He played with the Tipperary Hurling Club from 1959-77, winning New York championships in 1962, 1974 and 1976. He started playing football with the Cork team and, when they disbanded, he played with Kilkenny and won a New York championship with them in 1961.
It was obvious that a player of his ability would be picked on the New York team and he played with them from 1959-69. Being a member of the team involved a number of trips to Ireland to play in the National League final. Their best result came in 1963, when they drew with Waterford at Croke Park on a day that the referee added on about seven minutes, during which Waterford got the equaliser. New York lost the replay at Kilkenny the following Sunday. Johnny played against Tipperary at New York in 1964 and lost by only four points, an indication of the strength of their squad at the time. In 1965 the aggregate score for the two games between the sides in New York was 6-19 to 5-20, only a two point difference. In 1966 New York did badly against Kilkenny at Croke Park but in 1968 they were beaten by a point by Tipperary in the first leg at New York, but lost the aggregate by 6-27 to 4-22.
Johnny recalls playing on Jimmy Doyle in the two-leg 1964 National League final. He scored two points. Later they played on each other in an exhibition game at Chicago and Doyle got 1-2. 'Not bad,' Johnny adds: three hours of hurling on Jimmy Doyle and conceding only 1-4.'
Probably the highlight of Johnny's playing career with New York was a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1968. They played four games in hurling and football in Auckland and Sydney and won all four.
Johnny comments: 'With hurling, I have met so many friends. The G.A.A. brought a lot of people together down through the years. I retrired in 1977 but I am still active in the Tipperary Hurling Club. I was their President in 1962 and I became the Tipperary N. & B. Association President in 2006-2007. I was President of the Crown City Golf Club for seventeen years ˆ I took up the game in the early seventies ˆ and at the present time I am in my second term as financial secretary of the Tipperary N. & B. Association of New York.'
In 1962 Johnny married Eileen Forde of Kinvara and the couple have two sons, Denis and Stephen, and six grandchildren. Johnny appears to have passed on the G.A.A. tradition to his offspring. Denis made a good fist of Gaelic football and came to Ireland twice with the New York minor football team, as captain on the second occasion.
Of course Johnny has never forgotten his roots and still gets the greatest enjoyment attending G.A.A. matches. He is always home for the All-Ireland hurling final and uses the occasion to keep in touch with Tipperary hurling as well as with any new talent showing itself in Cashel. Every visit is a kind of re-union as he likes to meet players old and new at sporting events. His memory stretches back a long way and he can vividly recall incidences and events from his playing days that have long faded from most memories.