John Murphy with 1950s team mates, Jim Clarke left, and his late brother Michael, right
As one of Ballymore’s most dedicated GAA supporters, John ‘the Butcher’ Murphy will be honoured at next Saturday’s Naas Credit Union Ballymore Eustace People of the Year Awards.
When the snow covered Ballymore Eustace GAA's pitch and grounds, John was pictured on brush duty PICTURES: C Dennison
“You’ll see him at mass, you’ll see him at fundraisers but you’ll also see him at every GAA match that Ballymore plays, whether it’s underage, junior, senior, county, friendly or a relegation decider! John the Butcher Murphy is Ballymore GAA’s No 1 supporter” said Rose Barrett O’Donoghue, editor of the Ballymore Bugle who, along with Marion Hanlon, Chair of Naas Credit Union Board of Directors, who are generously sponsoring the awards yet again.
John’s GAA pedigree began early and he played football shortly after he started primary school. He is one of the few remaining members of the ‘three in a row’ 1950s team in Ballymore which claimed the distinction of winning Junior, Intermediate and Senior county titles in consecutive years.
His nickname ‘The Butcher’ derived from his first profession, having learnt the butchering trade at Jimmy Dowling’s in Newbridge, where he cycled to/from daily. He later ran a butcher’s shop at the premises where Gerry Blake pharmacist now operates. A young Liddy (short for Elizabeth) O’Leary, daughter of the local Sergeant was then studying nursing in the UK.
On one of her visits home, the pair started dating, and nursing went out the window. The couple married in 1952 and emigrated to the UK a few years later. Marie, Paddy, Simon, twins Paul and Johnny and finally Anne arrived. Whether at home in Ireland or in England, one thing that never changed was John’s infinite love of football, Gaelic football.
He was one of three Murphy brothers who played with Ballymore in the late ‘40s and early ’50s, to claim the ‘three in a row’. Even without social media, cameras and ‘instant’ fame, that team’s success is still regaled today, and is one of the features/theme in Henry Murphy’s recent book From Leahy’s Field to Bishopslane — Henry also being one of Saturday night’s award winners. John reckons he didn’t play in Leahy’s Field but he does remember the passion for the game. “GAA was everything” he said “Everything!”
Even when Liddy and John moved to St Alban’s in Hertfordshire, he managed a Plunkett’s team along with his brother Joe who later lived in Newbridge. It was there he met John Connors and remarkably, the brothers coached the UK side to championship success.
In 1965, the family moved back to Ireland, living in Dublin firstly but down in Ballymore Eustace every weekend, at every opportunity for GAA of course! Having gained experience in factory work with Vauxhall of Luton, John went to work for Beaver Engineering (Bosch) on the Greenhills Road, Tallaght, where he worked for 25 years. In 1972, the family moved to the current home at Broadleas, built notably by the late Jim Wiseman. Suffice to say, all the Murphys are GAA ‘heads’. If they’re not on the sideline, they’re on the pitch or serving on committees, chairing the club or physically doing the manual labour when needed! That includes driving the next generation of children to and from matches, with several of the grandchildren, male and female making their presence felt on the playing pitch.
Grandson Niall is currently on the county panel for Kildare’s U20s but down through the year, John’s sons and grandchildren have been part of winning championship teams, the GAA DNA is ingrained into them!
Liddy sadly died in 1989, almost 30 years ago; GAA, card playing, family and faith have filled John’s days. The friendships secured through his love of the GAA, have stood the test of time and it’s safe to say, there’s hardly any Ballymore GAA fans over the past three generations who don’t know who John the Butcher Murphy is!
All the nominations bar the winner of the Michael Ward Writer's Award will be up for the overall award, which was presented to Eugene Gilroy last year, and what a fitting winner he was.
The Ballymore Eustace People of the Year will be held on Saturday night next, April 14 at The Resource Centre, BME People of the Year is Awards kindly sponsored by Naas CU, with citations and prints by local artist, Fiona Barrett. The awards are organised by BME Community Development Association and the Ballymore Bugle.
John 'The Butcher' Murphy, back row right, with the famed 1950s 'three in a row' team