The death occurred on Monday morning of Canon Tommy Murphy. A long time cleric at St John’s parish in Kilkenny, he was a GAA legend.
Tommy Murphy won two senior All Ireland medals, four Leinster, an All-Ireland minor medal and a county senior title.
An iconic leader and a successful coach he was the driving force behind the formation of the O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club.
He was also a founding member of The No Name Club.
Having played in four All Ireland finals- 1963, 1964,1966 and 1969, Tommy Murphy had the unique record of never playing a league game for Kilkenny.
His absence from league hurling was all down to the regulations governing seminarians and clergy at the time.
Essentially, this context meant that Tommy could only represent the county during his holidays from St Kieran’s college.
Although, when the rule impinged on a prospective championship appearance, he circumvented it by not reporting back until after he had played in the 1964 All Ireland final.
When interviewed for The Stripy Men book ( 2008) Tommy laughed as he recalled that nobody seemed to notice his absence.
“It must have been a clerical error”, he quipped drily.
Tommy was remarkably philosophical when reflecting on that period.
“I never though too much about it to be honest” he mused. “That’s the way things were, and I just accepted it”.
O tempora, O mores.
The young Tommy Murphy regularly travelled, as he put it “down the road to ‘Ross’ to see the Wexford team of the 1950’s.”
“A mighty team and mighty men”, Tommy recalled.
Tommy spoke about Ollie Walsh as being the only Kilkenny hurler he would see.
Ollie was driving a milk lorry at the time and when he came to the village we’d gather around and watch him hurl milk churns all over the place”
In 1963, after impressing in an intermediate match against Kildare, he received a call to join the senior panel (also getting the nod at that time was Tom Walsh from Thomastown).
Tommy made it clear that going to train with the seniors was a nervous time for him.
“I was the first man from my end of the parish, The Rower, to make the team, and I was in awe of all these stars”. But as he said “I was determined to do my best and see where it got me”
His best must have been sufficient, for later in the year he played a vital role when he scored 2-1 in Kilkenny’s All- Ireland victory over Waterford.
It was indicative of his innate ability that Tommy Murphy, despite the restrictions placed upon him, continued to thrive locally and nationally. While always extremely modest about his achievements, he is recognized by his contemporaries as one of the foremost scoring forwards of that era.
A WONDERFUL LEGACY
During his lifetime Fr Tommy Murphy was central to many innovative programmes that helped support and strengthen the community. He displayed patience and rare diplomatic skills as he negotiated with the various stands of St John’s Parish from Johnswell, Dunmore and the City as he set about forming O’Loughlins GAA club. Dealing with the collective minutiae was a complicated and an onerous task but Fr Tom’s determination saw the task completed, successfully and the club was founded in 1969. Their first under age success in 1972 when Kevin Robinson captained the club to Minor hurling success was followed quickly with Junior football success in 1974 and Junior hurling success in 1975 when Mick Dooley captained the team that beat Ballyragget. Since then the club has progressed and is now recognised as a shining example of an inclusive sports organisation incorporating all sections of the community from youth to seniors.
As O’Loughlin’s continued to progress, Fr Tom became perturbed by other societal concerns. The abuse of alcohol among teenagers worried him and after consultations with his good friends Eddie Kerr and Eamon Doyle, together they founded the NO Name Club in 1978. This club would be a place where young people would make the decisions and help to organise positive alternatives to alcohol-based activities. This club resonated with the community and it grew and spread at a rapid pace. Today the No Name Club is active throughout the country.
As a long -time curate in St John’s Parish Fr Tom’s priestly interactions were filled with decency, kindness and generosity. His endeavours on behalf of parishioners allied to his affable nature allowed him to gain the respect of the community and to develop long lasting friendships.
Fr Tom was a visionary whose enthusiasm helped invigorate community groups allowing them to take control of their own affairs and wellbeing. With understanding and humanity, he helped to implement changes that brought improvements. It is a testament to his life’s work, that this rural priest, had such major impact on Irish society. It is no exaggeration to state that Fr Tom’s influence has permeated our country and that successive generations have benefited from his endeavours and commitment.