JENNIFER O'LEARY COLUMN
THE photo on this page is hanging in my hallway at home in Armagh.
It reminds me of a special day with special people.
We were just after winning the 2014 All-Ireland senior camogie final (Cork beat Kilkenny 2-12 to 1-9 with Jennifer scoring 1-1 – Sports Ed) and I met up with family and friends afterwards. This photo was taken outside of the popular Quinn’s Bar in Drumcondra.
On the bottom left of the photo is a very special man, my late uncle Paddy Murphy from Barryroe.
Paddy recently played in his very own All-Ireland final and like any admirable leader on the field, he left us all so proud of his courageous fight and battle right to the very end.
Nowadays All-Ireland finals take place in Croke Park, but on this occasion the battle took place in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin.
While unfortunately this encounter was eventually lost, what Paddy has left behind is a resounding GAA legacy, an unbelievably strong family and an overwhelming admiration from all who knew him.
My one and only uncle, Paddy Murphy, sadly passed away on June 11th last and has left a huge void in our lives.
While there have been many fitting and beautiful tributes paid to Paddy over the past few weeks, I felt it wrong for me to write my next column on anything or anyone but the great man himself, to highlight what impact he had on my life and the lives of others.
Paddy always seemed to be there when I was growing up. Every Sunday he called to our house and used to scare us with his ‘pull the finger apart trick’. To this day we still can’t figure it out.
Together, Paddy and my auntie Ann were a constant support and helped me throughout my life in many different ways.
Whenever I was stuck for lifts to Cork camogie training – a regular headache of mine when I was young – Paddy and Ann thought nothing of giving up their evenings to drive all the way to Cork, wait a few hours and then drive the one-hour journey back home again.
I remember feeling so bad asking them to give up their time, but they never once made me feel uncomfortable and never appeared put out. They were glad to help.
I know how much Paddy supported and got behind camogie in Barryroe and so again I could see how much of an impact he had on every aspect of the GAA at home. He was inclusive of all codes and I am so grateful for his support.
Whenever you were in Paddy’s company there was warmth and a genuine interest in what you had to say.
In fact, looking back I wish I had asked him more about his life and got to know him even better. At his funeral his son Richard brilliantly outlined the endless endeavours Paddy was involved in, and I felt ashamed that I didn’t ask him more about his many life experiences.
He was a man that made you feel very lazy when you heard all he had achieved and involved himself in during his 69 years of life. He was a full-time GAA secretary with Barryroe for 50 years, a constant presence in the Barryroe field, an efficient and effective fundraiser, a transport manager in Barryroe co-op, a father and husband, a historian of the GAA and more. I could go on.
He was the complete legend and a hero to me.
Someone asked me after his funeral, ‘Who inspired you to play camogie growing up?’
Instantly I spoke of the late May Whelton, her daughter Mary Kearney, Maura Whelton and, of course, my sisters.
But when I reflected back to my most recent camogie playing days, I realised that Paddy was someone who sparked my love of camogie because of the genuine interest he had in it. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me.
I was told leading up to his death that I had given him so much joy and enjoyment when he came to see me play. Looking back, he was one of my close family members that I wanted to impress and do my best for. He was a regular supporter in the crowd at club and county games and he attended many of the Camogie All-Star Award ceremonies.
Paddy always asked me about all things camogie when he saw me and even when I moved to Armagh he followed my progress online or through this column.
It’s quite hard to accept that he won’t read this article, like he had religiously done for the last number of years. However, I’m sure today he is helping me type each word carefully but correctly on my laptop. He probably would have been chuffed to know how important he was in my life but also wouldn’t have liked the fuss made about him. Sorry Paddy, but you need to hear this.
Over the past few weeks, there have been many funny stories recounted of Paddy Murphy. He was a loveable rogue, a messer, a man with a great sense of humour and one who always had a cheeky grin.
It was heart warming to hear how he had a significant impact on so many people’s lives down through the years in a positive and uplifting way. Whether it was helping someone find employment, allowing people to integrate into Barryroe through the GAA or simply being there as a father figure to talk to, Paddy should be and will be remembered for being an ever present individual who is irreplaceable in the community.
‘We won’t see the likes of him again’, a friend told me at his funeral and I have to agree.
But if there’s anything Paddy would like to continue, it’s the positive growth of GAA in the area for the future.
Paddy Murphy should now stand as a motivator and inspiration to others to continue his good work, to protect the ground roots he has so solidly put in place for young and old to enjoy sport in Barryroe.
Every club needs a man like Paddy Murphy. He should motivate us all to work that little bit harder in everything we do because he dedicated over 50 years of his life to his passion as secretary of Barryroe GAA. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to take the easy road and lie down because that is not what Paddy did in any aspect of his life.
Continue to recount the happy memories you shared with Paddy, that’s what he would have wanted and that’s what his family also request and if there was ever a book to be written about this extraordinary man, perhaps ‘Legend’ would be the perfect title.