January 01, 2001
Sligo's Barnes Murphy
Hogan Stand attempts to summarise Barnes Murphys achievements on the playing field.
Wherever there is talk of Sligo football, the name of Barnes Murphy will inevitably pop up, given that the Enniscrone native's contribution to gaelic football in the Yeats County would merit quite a number of chapters in a book which detailed the history of the association in the western county.
He boasts an impressive curriculum vitae which includes, amongst many others, 5 county championship souvenirs (with St. Marys), 5 League medals, 2 Connacht club championships, an All-Ireland 7s, an All Star award from '74 and, the most polished of them all, a Connacht SFC from '75.
Not alone did Barnes play a starring role in the provincial final success over Mayo (after a replay) that year, he was also the team's captain and coach!
"I was on the All Star trip in April of '75 and all the Galway lads were talking about how they were going to hammer us in the first round of the championship that year," recalls Barnes. "When I came home I told the Sligo team what I had been listening to and we ended up having the last laugh.
"Kerry beat us in the All Ireland semi-final but, seeing as it was our first Connacht win in 47 years, the celebrations perhaps went on for too long. I tried in vain to put a stop to them, but winning one Connacht title was like winning five All Irelands to us.
"I was the team's coach but I got James Tierney - who was masseur with the Sligo Rovers soccer team at the time - to do the training. He'd be better known for his involvement with Sligo Rovers but he's very well thought of in Sligo GAA circles. The Chairman of the County Board at the time, Paddy Clifford, also played an instrumental role in that win as did, of course, the selectors, Luke Kilcoyne and the late Pauric Lang."
Barnes was player/manager again in 1980 and '81. Mayo proved to be the rock on which their championship aspirations perished at the Connacht final stage in '81 and it proved to be Barnes' swansong on the intercounty front.
He first donned the black and white in '67. Not alone did his performances with Sligo attract the attention of the All Star selection committee, the Connacht Railway Cup management also recognised his talent and in '76 he carved a niche for himself as the only Sligo man to captain his province.
A versatile sportsmen in his youth - soccer, rugby and basketball medals occupy their fair share of space in the Murphy trophy cabinet - Barnes developed and perfected his football skills with the local Enniscrone club and while attending school in St. Nathy's Ballaghadereen. He later transferred to Craobh Rua in Sligo town, which amalgamated with neighbouring Muire Naoibh in '75, to form St. Marys.
"I asked Fr. Cyril Haran, another person who would be more renowned for his soccer involvement with Summerhill College, to become manager of St. Marys when the club was first established. He asked me what we were in and I told him the semi-final of the league and the semi-final of the championship. He told me that we'd win both! He was a fabulous manager and brilliant motivator. His motto was 'winning isn't everything . . . it's the only thing'.
"St. Marys was a fabulous club to play with and I have memories of the players and mentors which were there at the time which will last with me forever."
Nowadays all Barnes' efforts are channelled towards the St. Johns club. He explains how that came about: "In 1984 the County Board divided Sligo town up and where I was living was in a different area to St. Marys. So a few of us here had to set up our own club, St. Johns. In 1985 we won the junior championship, in '86 the junior league, and we were intermediate up until last year.
"The underage section of the club has been going really well for us these last few years. We've represented Sligo at the Feile competition for the last five years. In 1998 our juvenile Roll of Honour included: U9, U11, U12 and U14 leagues as well as U16, minor county championships and U10 Community Games."
Barnes was manager of the successful U16 team in '98, having been in the charge of the minors and U14s in times past.
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