ANYBODY who is anybody in Barryroe was to be found in the Lifeboat Inn in Courtmacsherry on Saturday night last when the Barryroe GAA Club honoured its recently-retired secretary Paddy Murphy, who has just stepped down after filling that role for the past 50 years.
Young and old, GAA and non-GAA, they came to pay tribute to a man who has been not only an integral part of the local GAA club for the past half century but an institution in the parish.
‘While our parish has many clubs and societies, Barryroe is mainly defined by three main bodies – the local primary school, the Co-op and the GAA club. I worked in Barryroe Co-op for 49 years and the GAA club for 51 years and my family all went to school in Barryroe,’ said Paddy.
But it is for his contribution to Barryroe GAA that Paddy has earned a lasting place in the folklore of the parish and GAA players, old and young, club officials past and present, club members and supporters showed their appreciation in style on Saturday night last.
Present with Paddy at the function were his wife Ann and his family, Sinead, Padraig and Richard, while special guest on the night was Cork hurling legend Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
Very capable Fear an Tí for the night was Barryroe native Richard O’Flynn, a former GAA player and international athlete. He pointed out that during the past 50 years there have been ten Taoisigh in Ireland and seven Presidents, nine American Presidents and five Popes – but only one GAA secretary in Barryroe.
Chairman of the club Sean de Barra, who served 27 years as rúnaí of the South West Junior Board, gave a wide-ranging speech on the history of the club during the past 50 years, with Paddy as the central figure through it all.
Back in 1964, Joe O’Sullivan, a Caheragh native who was teaching in the old Lislevane school, left the parish. Joe, who was present on Saturday night, was secretary of the club at that time. A few days later the chairman of the club, Mike Joe Whelton, met young 17-year-old Paddy Murphy and said: ‘You are the secretary of the club now.’
‘That’s how democracy worked at that time,’ said Sean de Barra.
‘I took on the job on a temporary basis,’ said Paddy.
‘It was sanctioned at the AGM and 50 years later I was still there.’
When Paddy took over, Barryroe was a lowly junior B football club and for the first decade progress was slow but the seventies brought a big change.
‘It all really began with the evolution of our underage in the mid-seventies,’ Paddy told the large gathering. ‘The hard work of all involved had its rewards and we had our first big win in minor hurling in 1977 against Bandon.
We went from strength to strength after that and those players went on to win four junior titles in 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987.
‘Some of them were still playing in 1984 when we beat our neighbours Timoleague in the final and that is one of my favourite memories of my time as secretary,’ said Paddy, tongue in cheek, many of his Timoleague friends being present at the function.
Apart from all the successes on the pitch, which Paddy oversaw – the 2007 county junior hurling title win being the real highlight – it was the development of the club facilities that gave him greatest satisfaction.
From playing out of farmers’ fields, and using the now demolished creamery hall for meetings and functions, Barryroe now boasts one of the most modern set-ups in GAA facilities in the county.
‘From the time we purchased the field in 1973, to the present fantastic facilities, it has been an amazing story,’ said Paddy.
‘Special mention must be made of four men no longer with us – Timmy O’Brien, Miah Sexton, John O’Brien and Michael Santry – who did tremendous work in the early development and also, in recent years, John Fleming, who has contributed so much to the club financially and through his construction company.’
Vincent Sexton, a neighbour of Paddy’s and an outstanding GAA man all his life, served as chairman of the club for 18 years during Paddy’s time as rúnai.
He paid a glowing tribute to Paddy, while also outlining the early days of the club, which dates back to 1892. The first written account of a club meeting appeared in The Southern Star in March 1893, giving an idea of the early officers and Vincent’s grandfather was one of the men present at that meeting.
‘We could write stories about going to meetings in Dunmanway,’ said Vincent.
‘There were four delegates, Paddy, myself and two others. We wouldn’t be long going west but we’d be all night coming home. We had wonderful times, made great friends. What Paddy said at meetings was always on the ball. That stood to Barryroe.
‘Paddy is a great neighbour, a genuine family man, and we always pulled well together. Barryroe was lucky to have him, especially as regards his position in Barryroe Co-op as you could always drop in to chat to him if you had any questions.’
Chairman Joe Crowley represented the South West Board and described Paddy as a man of few words but when he spoke you knew it was worth listening to. He had seen many great days with his club, at junior A and junior B, including county titles, and he was the man who organised it all and earned the respect of all GAA people who knew him.
Vincent O’Donovan, in a heart-felt tribute, spoke on behalf of all the players Paddy had put through his hands during his fifty years as rúnaí. Some of those players had gone to their eternal reward, some at a very young age and were not forgotten.
He recalled the underage days with Paddy and Vincent Sexton when a dozen players could be squashed into one vehicle to get to a match.
‘You were a father-figure to us for five decades and we thank you for that,’ said Vincent.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who got a great reception from the crowd, paid a glowing tribute to Paddy, and men like him who dedicated their whole lives to the GAA.
‘Some of us were lucky to win All-Ireland medals and top honours with our clubs and county but without men like Paddy to keep it going, the GAA would have been nothing,’ said the Cork legend.
‘Tonight is a marvellous celebration of the outstanding contribution of Paddy
Murphy to Barryroe.’
Jimmy Barry-Murphy then made a special presentation to Paddy on behalf of the club and the quiet former rúnaí was also presented with a framed letter of congratulations from GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail.
Paddy’s wife, Ann, was the recipient of much praise for the part she and the family had played in Paddy’s amazing career as rúnaí and was the recipient of a bouquet of flowers.
There was genuine satisfaction among all those involved that Paddy’s son, Richard, has taken over the reins of secretary from his father and the Murphy GAA dynasty continues.