Monday, 28 September 2020 19:03

NOEL MURPHY: All Ireland & Cork Hall Of Fame Inductee

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Proud Cork Rugby International and Coach and Historic Sports Family

Plunkett Carter @ Cork & All Ireland Hall Of Fame Tribute 

Honouring Times Past Rugby Legend

I have never come across a family that has such extensive wide branching connections with a club than the Murphy family have with Cork Constitution and they hold a special place in the annals of the game in this country. When Kenny Murphy ran on to the field to win the first of his 11 caps as a full-back against England in January 1990 he created a record unique in Irish Rugby history, emulating his father and grandfather before him; It was the first and only time that a son, father and grandfather represented Ireland at senior level. Nine months earlier Kenny scored the winning try in Constitution’s thrilling victory over Shannon in the Munster Cup. Also on that team was his brother Charlie who was winning his second medal having starred on the side which beat Shannon in 1985 when other brother Noel, who captained the record equalling junior Cup winners in 1986, was also a member of the panel and played in the earlier rounds.

Kenny and Charlie figured on the Con team which won the inaugural All-Ireland League in 1991. Kenny also helped to create another three generation record when following their paths to play with the Barbarians. He first came to prominence when assisting his school CBC and won an International Schools cap as a winger in 1985.


Noel A. Murphy played for Cork Constitution and Munster. He received his first cap for Ireland, when playing at home to Australia in 1958. He went on to play for Ireland 41 times, including four as captain. While domiciled in Limerick in 1961 he continued his International career and gained four caps while representing Garryowen.

The old idiom ‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ was put to the test that year when Noel was inspirational in helping the Light Blues reach the Munster Senior Cup final where they came up against his beloved Constitution; of course the extended Murphy family, though wishing him well, roared their

heads off for Con and were delighted to offer commiserations after the Templehill sides fine victory.

Noel, or Noisy, as he was known by the rugby fraternity, quickly got over that little disappointment and in ’64 and ’65 he captained Con to victory over Dolphin and the Well respectively adding to the one won in 1957 against Dolphin. He still wasn’t finished and hung two more medals on his trophy shield with wins in 1967 and 1970.


Noel toured with the British and Irish Lions in 1959, when he was the youngest player on the squad, winning four test caps against New Zealand and Australia and added four more (a record for a flanker) when chosen for the Lions visit Down Under in 1966. Noel was ever-present on the Munster

side, whom he assisted 30 times between 1956-69. He played his last match for Ireland in a controversial match against Wales in 1969; Ireland went to Cardiff chasing the Grand Slam and Noel received his own “slam” when after 10 minutes he was knocked out by a punch, which went unpenalised, thrown by Brian Price.


When Noel retired he turned to management, first with Cork Constitution, then Munster, and finally with Ireland from 1978 to 1980. In 1978 he was chosen as coach and assistant manager to Syd Millar for the tour to Australia of that year when Ireland became the first team from British Isles to win a test series in the southern hemisphere where there preference for Ollie Campbell over Tony Ward became a major talking point. The Irish success in Australia made him a certainty to coach the Lions and in 1980 he led them on the controversial (apartheid) tour of South Africa.

After serving as Manager of the under 21 team in 1989 he held the position as Senior manager between 1992 and 1995 which were difficult problematic years in the pre professional era and ended with disappointing displays in the1995 World Cup in South Africa. Noel was honoured with the Presidency of the IRFU in 1998-99 emulating his father Noel F. Murphy, who held the office in 1960-61 and his immense contribution to rugby in this country was recognised, when in 2004 he was inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers Hall of Fame.

The father and grand-dad Noel Francis Murphy, son of Tom, who was born in 1904, was an International back-row forward who won 11 caps between 1930-33 and was an ever-present on the side which shared the International Championship in 1932. He won two Munster Senior Cup medals with Cork Con in 1929 and ’33. He was President of the IRFU in 1960-61 and was manager of the Irish Touring side which visited South Africa in 1961, where son Noel, rather surprisingly, failed to make the test team.


Keeping It In The Family Circle

The Murphy name is synonymous with the club and the tradition had been forged in the earliest days of the club’s history when Tom Matt Murphy (Noel Francis’ Uncle) joined Con. Tom Matt married Mary Desmond, sister of David, who in 1905 had the honour of being the first player to captain a Constitution Munster Senior Cup winning side.

Tom Matt’s sister-in-law Eileen Desmond, married Paddy Barry and their sons Tim, Pat and Des, gave magnificent service to Cork Con and PBC. Their sister Nancy (Barry) married Ned O’Connor and he captained the side which defeated UCC in 1942. Tom Matt and Mary had five sons Matt (Prince), Tim (Pebble), Tom, Willie and Ned and four daughters Eileen, Violet, Pearl and Nancy. Neds sons Adrian and John wore the Cork Constitution colours.

Three of Tom Matts sons Matt, Tim and Ned between them won 8 Munster Senior Cup medals with Con, beginning when Matt was on the team which defeated Garryowen in 1922. Around this time the family tree began to branch and Eileen married Michael Kiernan and their sons Jim and Tom between them won 10 Munster Senior Cup medals; Tom became one of the games truly great players representing his country on 54 (24 as Captain) occasions; he played with and was assistant manager of the Lions and became President of the IRFU. His brother Jim played regularly with Munster and was an Irish selector between 1984-87; and was also capped in cricket for Ireland. He captained the Con cup winning team in 1957 when Trevor Murphy Matt (the Princes) grandson was also on the team.

Jim married Cork Camogie star Angela Lane and their son Michael who like his uncles Mick Lane (17 caps) and Tom Kiernan was also a British Lion, was born in 1961 and a product of PBC who played on the wing and the centre and commenced his glittering International (43 caps) career as a member of the triple crown winning team in 1982. He was also Irish 200m sprint champion as was his uncle Dick Lane.


Noel F’s Sister Breda married Harry Deane, a Munster Cup winner in 1929, and three of their daughters married Tom Kiernan, Bobby Casey (cup winner in ’65 & amp; n’67) and Cyril Cuffe (cup winner in ’70); Tom Matts daughter Nancy married Ted Morrissey and their sons Walter and Des played with Con; Michael Sheehan, Pearls son, also continued the tradition, Johnny Wren a cup winner with Dolphin in 1921 married Violet and transferred to Con and helped to the club to Cup glory in 1929.

It's getting complicated now and I’m afraid if I was to continue in this vein, you’d nearly need an honours degree in Geneaology to unravel the extensive wide branching family links.

This unique All Ireland Hall of Fame editorial was composed by Cork Sports Historian


Last modified on Tuesday, 06 September 2022 11:13