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From Intermediate success with Kilmaley to All-Ireland glory

Down on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border. Tom O'Hara from Gortahoe had a problem. Nothing unusual about that. After all as secretary of the Mid-Tipperary GAA Board, problems were part and parcel of life, just as they are with all who assume such honorous offices in the Association. This wasn't your common or garden problem, however. It was different, to say the least, and it called upon him to look into the 'missing persons' file and come up with the whereabouts of a certain Mick Murphy. The Mid-Tipp Board, as part of its Centenary Year programme had decided to honour all who had won All-Ireland senior medals with the county. Mick Murphy was in that illustrious number, but where to contact him, that was the problem.
Never one to shirk a problem, Tom thought about it and then decided to phone another Tipperary man, now living in Clare. Mick was from Clare and perhaps his contact might be able to come up with the information.
Gerry Slevin of the 'Clare Champion' answered the phone and after exchanging pleasantries with Tom, the caller asked, 'could you tell me where I might contact Mick Murphy?. Gerry recalled Mick playing against Tipp with Clare back in the late 40s but he had no more information about him. However, he promised to do his best. Mick Murphy. Who would know? Ah, John Joe Doyle.

There might be a lead there. Sure enough John Joe was able to narrow the query down to the fact that Mick hailed from Kilmaley. After that it was plain sailing. Michael Maher took it from there with the aid of Joe McMahon. Mick's whereabouts were established. The news was related back to Tom O'Hara and the end result was a memorable night in Thurles with Mick Murphy joining a host of former Tipperary greats, many of whom he hadn't met in years. Mick Murphy served Thurles Sarsfields and Tipperary well. But he was no 'greenhorn' when he gave his allegiance to them. In 1938 he lined out in the Intermediate B championship with his native Kilmaley

Kilmaley and helped them to their first ever title for the club. He also played senior hurling with Clarecastle in the late 30s, when the Magpies were allowed to select players from Kilmaley, Kilnamona and Ballyea. Defeat in finals came their way on three occasions, to Newmarket in '36, the Mills a year later and in 1939 by Feakle.
Seeking new pastures, Mick took up a position in Russells drapery store in Thurles in February 1940. He threw in his lot with Sarsfields and senior championship success with them came his way in '44, '45 and '46. Right half back and midfield were his recognised positions.
The Cork dominance of '41-'44 with their famed four in a row All-Ireland success, was broken by Tipperary in '45 and Mick wore the number 5 jersey, when they beat Kilkenny in the final, 5-6 to 3-6. He was in great company. Tipp were led by John Maher and included such players as Tommy Doyle, Ger Connolly, Jim Devitt, Flor Coffey, the late Tommy Purcell, the late Tony Brennan.
In 1947, Mick moved to Dublin to work in Clery's. He now played with Faughs but declared for his native county. When Clare fell to Cork in the first round of the '47 championship, Mick found himself up against Jack Lynch. In the '49 championship, he came up against many of his old Tipperary colleagues, when en route to their three in a row success, Tipperary had a very hard earned win over Clare in the semi-final.
Kilmaley has good reason to be proud of Mick Murphy. A fine sturdy defender, tenacious and gritty, his height and strength were to come to the fore often in repulsing many a promising attack. His Kilmaley roots were very dear to him and having been a vital cog in the very first championship success to come their way, all of forty six years ago, the name and memory of Mick Murphy will live on in Kilmaley Hurling folklore.

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