April 08, 1994
Tadhg Murphy's goal against Kerry in 1983 will always be part of rebel football folklore
People will often tell you that they can remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was assasinated, or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. In the world of sport, Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net or Seamus Darby kicking the late Offaly goal in the '82 All-Ireland final are equally memorable moments. Down in Cork many football folk can recall, as if it happened last week, the moment in 1983 when the Rebels clinched their first provincial title for nine years - thanks to a last minute goal from former dual star Tadhg Murphy - winner of several All-Ireland medals at various grades, and now manager of the Sarsfields hurling team.
Although Tadhg Murphy had long been a noted exponent of both football and hurling in Cork, it was that famous goal which catapulted him into the national headlines. "People still come up and tell me they remember it," he says fondly. It was a goal which liberated his county from the yoke of Kerry dominance in the '70s and early '80s. The Kingdom had beaten Cork in every Munster final from 1975 to 1982 inclusive and notched up five All-Irelands in the process. "Kerry had a great side but Cork-Kerry matches were always fairly close and we would always have given ourselves a chance against them." However, very few expected that great Kerry side to slip up in the '83 Munster decider - so determined were they to make up for the disappointment of losing the previous year's All-Ireland final Offaly, when going for a five in a row. "That Munster final was a real see-saw game and we had to come back a couple of times. We were underdogs but everyone on our team raised their game and it was a marvellous occasion." As for the winning score, Cork were losing by 3-9 to 2-10 as the match entered its final moments when they got a free from around the middle of the field. Tadhg himself takes up the story. "Tadhg O'Reilly sent in the long range free kick and I was in the right place at the right time. I got the ball, turned and kicked it into the net. It was a great highlight for me because it was the last kick of the game."
So Cork had their 23rd Munster title safely in the bag and the All-Ireland serious was beckoning. Dublin were the semi final opposition in Croke Park and it took a last minute Barney Rock goal to give the Leinster champions a draw, and a replay in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. The Dubs produced an impressive display to put the Corkmen out, winning by 4-15 to 2-10. "It's hard to pinpoint what went wrong in that replay. Dublin got a good start and we just couldn't get into it. They deserved to win on the day. The drawn match was our big opportunity but we let it slip and they got that late goal."
To beat that great Kerry team once in a Munster final was hard enough, doing it two years on the trot proved to be asking too much of the Cork footballers, and their great rivals recorded a seven point win in the Centenary Munster final, before going on to take another three All-Irelands in a row.
This meant that Tadhg never won an All-Ireland senior football medal - but it was one of the very few honours which he failed to garner throughout an illustrious playing career, which commenced at 9 years of age with the local Glanmire under 14 team. Although based only four miles from Cork city, the people of that town still consider themselves to be living in a rural area, and it is one which is rich in GAA tradition. Tadhg's own father was secretary of the Sarsfields-Glanmire club for about forty years so the young Murphy could hardly avoid getting involved. While some of his career highlights may have come courtesy of gaelic football, the Glanmire man's first love was hurling, and he has always preferred that code. "I was always more of a hurling man. I think it's the best field game in the world and it's better for both players and spectators." Incidentally, Tadhg played his first senior hurling championship game with Sarsfields in 1974 and has not missed a championship match to date.
1968 saw Tadhg and his fellow under 14s take the Cork county championship in both hurling and football - establishing Sarsfields-Glanmire as a formidable force in underage GAA down south and putting young Murphy himself on the road to dual stardom.
Trainer of those teams was Michael Barry, who coached many Glanmire underage teams over the years and was one of the principal influences on Tadhg's early career. "The under 14 titles were the big breakthrough in our club. It was a new beginning in many senses." His first All-Ireland medal came at school in 1972, St. Finbarr's of Farranferris, who took four Dr. Harty Cup Munster hurling titles in a row from 1971 to '74 - Tadhg played on three and actually captained the victorious team in that last year, which was trained by Canon Michael O'Brien.
It was also a successful year on another couple of fronts for the Glanmire man as he not only made it onto the Cork minor football and hurling teams, but won All-Ireland medals with both - lining out at left corner forward for the footballers who defeated Mayo by four points in the final, and on the other side of the full forward line as Cork beat Kilkenny by two points in the hurling decider. Since the mid 60s the Rebel County have managed to produce a string of successful underage football teams - taking at least one All-Ireland, at some grade, in almost every year. Much of this success can be attributed to a recognition in Cork, of the value of a strong youth policy in the clubs and, as Tadhg Murphy points out, that system has reaped rewards. He was lucky and talented enough to be part of various victorious sides. After winning two minor All-Irelands and an All-Ireland Colleges medal in '74, he duly progressed to under 21 level in both codes the following year. At the footballing end of things, his three years on the Cork side ended in disappointment as they were continually thwarted by Kerry teams who boasted young men like Charlie Nelligan, Paidi O'Se, Ogie Moran, Jack O'Shea and others.
However, the Cork under 21 hurlers had a bit more success during Murphy's stint on the team. 1975 saw Kilkenny beating them by three points in the final, which Tadhg recalls as the best match he ever played in. The whole half forward line was made up of Sarsfields players - Tadhg, his brother Bertie Og and Sean O'Farrell. Sarsfields also won the Cork under 21 title that year and Tadhg was made captain for the '76 inter county campaign, which culminated the Leesiders turning the tables on Kilkenny and taking the All-Ireland by 2-17 to 1-8. Much of the credit for that Sarsfields victory in the 1975 under 21 county championship must go to Paddy Lambe. The man who trained the team and many others. "It was a great period of my career," recalls Tadhg.
Although Cork failed to retain that under 21 crown, losing by three points to Kilkenny in the final with Tadhg Murphy at right corner forward, 1977 was to prove memorable in another way for the young Glanmire man. He had broken into the senior inter county hurling panel the previous year and was there again when they beat Wexford in the 1977 All-Ireland final. "I came on as a sub in that final and although I wasn't on for long, it was great to pick up a medal."
It was in the early seventies when Tadhg was first drafted onto the Cork senior football panel, and it took him just a year to make a memorable impact with that famous goal in the 1983 Munster decider. The Rebels lost provincial finals to old rivals Kerry in the subsequent year but Murphy continued playing for the junior team, and after getting beaten by London in the '86 All-Ireland final, they went one better the following year and overcame Warwickshire by eleven points in the decider, after recording a 2-4 to 0-8 victory against Dublin the 'home' final. That was the sixth grade at which Tadhg won an All-Ireland medal - added to minor football, colleges hurling and minor, under 21 and senior hurling.
On the club front, success didn't come quite as easily at senior level, as Sarsfields struggled to keep up with the other top clubs in Cork. 1986 saw Murphy picking up an intermediate football championship medal and playing with divisional side Imokilly, he won senior county honours in both 1984 and '86. Married to Catherine, with children Katie and Tadhg Og, he helped his hurling team to the senior county final in 1989 but despite scoring nine points himself, the Sarsfields were still beaten by Glen Rovers.
Tadhg has been in the insurance business since leaving school in 1974, and joined Jardine Insurance Brokers Ireland Limited - of which he is now a company director - in 1983. He is still playing hurling and the coming season will be his first as manager of the Sarsfields hurling team, in addition to coaching young children every Saturday morning. "Manager of the team is a new role for me and I'm really looking forward to the championship." Now that he's in the twilight of his playing career, it seems like a new phase is starting in the GAA life of Tadhg Murphy.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
8th April 1994
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