05 March 1995
Reflects On His Days As A Rebel
The perception that injuries have become the preserve of the modern-day footballer and that such millstones only wrecked havoc when short pants became unfashionable still abounds to some degree. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the 'oul hamstring muscle injury was flavour of the month (even if it left a bitter taste in the mouth of the injured party) in the treatment room and of late the cruciate ligament knee complaint is fairly doing the rounds in the world of gaelic games and other codes besides.
As G.A.A. books and magazines become more conspicuous on the shop shelves however, tales of would-be great players, proven footballers and burgeoning stars succumbing to career-ending injuries have become more common place. One former notable whose career was scuttled in mid flight by injury was Dan Murray of Macroom and Cork fame.
Despite the cruel twist of fate which prempted his premature retirement from the game he loved in 1963, Dan Murray doesn't seek to document any litany of hard luck stories. Instead he bravery recalls times past when the gods ordained that, for him, a mixed bag of good and not so good times would be the order of the day on the club and country front. Murray's career and the proverbial curate's in common!
Some episodes stand out in Dan Murray's sojourn on the high profile intercounty stage more then other episodes. For instance the 1957 All-Ireland final when he figured on the Cork team who were shocked in the decider by the lot for him to swallow.
"You have to be philosophical about the matches you play in but that defeat to Louth was very disappointing, principally because we should have won it even though we were our own worst enemies on the day".
The final was a personal nightmare for Dan too, he bravely acknowledges. "We were a bit complacent because Louth were an unknown quantity at the time and really came out of the blue that year. We were still two points in front though with only about five minutes to go when disaster struck for us. Kevin Bohan of Louth fired in a sideline ball, I remember, into my corner and I shouted that it was my ball, that I had it covered. I attempted to bring the ball into my chest but I was dispossessed and they snatched the winning goal. Needless to say I felt personally responsible even though we had our chances late in the game when we hit the crossbar before losing the match by a solitary point", the current school teacher reflected.
To the outsider with an objective view of things, it is understandable just why Cork succeeded in underestimating the Louth challenge for the men from Galway were almost all powerful back then, were at least the team that everyone with pretensions on lifting the Sam Maguire Cup had to beat. The fact that Murray and company downed the Tribesmen in the '57 semi final practically made the mould for the later cockiness.
"Beating Galway in the '57 semi final had two effects. It made us really confident of beating Louth in the final but also gave us great satisfaction too because they had beaten us in the All-Ireland final the year before. I remember we were seven or eight points down to them at half time and ended up being beaten by just three points in the end. Frank Stockwell did nearly all the damage that day, scoring something like two goals as they say, in my book anyway", the left full back that day now recalls.
A Macroom clubman through and through, Dan Murray was a rock-solid tenacious left half back for them and played a key role in the club's historic 1958 Senior County Championship title success, Macroom's first such triumph for over twenty years. One of Dan's team mates on that side was none other then Mick Gould, a member of the Cork 1957 team and the county National League team of '52.
The proud holder of a 1955 National League medal, Dan played for two consecutive years with Cork Minors in 1951 and '52 before adding to his growing reputation by helping the Rebel County to an All-Ireland Junior title the following year. A debutant with Cork Seniors in 1952 (when Kerry were defeated in a tournament match in Castleisland) Dan excelled on the playing field in the company of such notables as Niall Fitzgerald and Eric Ryan. The club's'58 triumph reflected the talent available to Macroom then although defeat to Saint Finbarr's in 1959 did take the shine somewhat off the Macroom achievement the previous year.
If the defeat to the Barrs wasn't enough of a disappointing to Dan Murray, a dislocation of the cartilage in his left knee left him something less than the player he had been thereafter. "The knee was never the same again. I had another few runs out with the county after that, but a lot of my confidence had gone, especially involving the tackle and I retired from the intercounty scene in '63".
Helping Macroom to another county Championship win in 1962 helped to (literally) ease the pain of his dodgy knee but the joy of winning Munster Senior medals with Cork in 1956 and '57 was not to be repeated. A solid club player suddenly became Murray's job description.
A native of Kilmichael, some five miles to the north of Macroom, Dan Murray enjoyed the best of football apprenticeships with Macroom De La Salle college and went on to prove himself at interprovincial college level. "I especially remember once playing for Munster against Connacht in Tuam but a few of us were late coming back to the park from a visit to the local sugar factory and we were fairly brought to task by the team manager of the time".
Although his time with Macroom didn't result in an avalanche of medals, Dan nevertheless wholeheartedly enjoyed his time there and freely acknowledges the debt he owned to Brother Ignatious for his expertise in the coaching sphere. A hurler at Minor level for Cloughduv, Dan reflects back on his career and rates Frankie Stockwell and Jim Brosnan of Movane (Kerry) as his most difficult opponents. A very fast and skilful player, Dan Murray bemoas the decline in attendance at tournament matches and decries the admission price structure which the G.A.A. had built up.
"One of the biggest problems which the G.A.A. is facing is the huge decline in numbers attending these matches, people just aren't supporting them as much as they used to. It's now too expensive for the likes of a family to go and match together. It's becoming an elite hobby to watch games and it's not as if the G.A.A. can't afford to drop their prices".
A former star who believes that current stars shouldn't be out of pocket while playing and training with their county, Dan fervently believes that players should be afforded a "reasonable amount of expenses but I wouldn't agree with them being paid for playing".
Amazingly after his three year stint as a county Minor, Dan was to go on and link up with his brothers Gerry and Connie on an all-conquering Cork side. "That gave me great pleasure and was I'd have to say, a very proud occasion for the whole family. Connie was right half back, I was at left half back and Gerry was in the centre on the Cork Junior team which won the '53 All-Ireland".
The youngest of nine Murray children, Dan Murray ploughed a lot of furrows on football fields up and down and across Cork before he made Croke Park though. He patiently remembers playing football in and around the farm using a nylon stocking filled with hay as a football or alternatively using his lungs to make good a pig's bladder. More often than not the roadside games he helped organise had their own commentaries and the regular evening games were played away until the hours of darkness dictated that they should finish.
"There are not too many roadside games these days, I'm afraid to say and more's the pity. We put in the time practising and were very conscious that you needed to have the basic skills right as well as the fitness", explained the Cork old boy who played on four Munster Railway Cup sides in his day.
A rural Science graduate from University College Cork and a Sigerson Cup star to boot, Dan began his teaching career in 1957 in Kanturk, later moving on to Charleville, then becoming Principal in Mill Street in 1964. In 1971, he moved to Cork and became Vice-Principal in Mayfield, a position he retained for three years before moving on to Ballincollig in '74. He has been Principal of Ballincollig Community School ever since. The irony is that few of the eight hundred and fifty pupils there would appreciate the football pedigree of their Headmaster. More's the pity.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
5th March, 1995