McGrath pays tribute to Mourne legend Leo Murphy

February 21, 2017

Down great Leo Murphy (No.3) against Dublin in the 1965 National Football League 'Home Final' at Croke Park

Pete McGrath has led the tributes to Down football legend Leo Murphy, who died yesterday.

Murphy, who played in ten Ulster finals and won six, was full back on the Mourne County side that defeated Kerry in the 1960 All-Ireland SFC final to bring the Sam Maguire Cup across the border for the first time. The Kilkeel native was only 21 at the time but he rose to the occasion and collected another All-Ireland medal the following year when more than 90,000 spectators watched Down defeat Offaly. He was forced to retire in 1967, thereby missing out on Down's 1968 All-Ireland success.

Regarded as the finest full back of his era, Leo was a true colossus of the game, dominating the area in front of his goal with authority and composure. Noted for his aerial ability and booming kick-outs, he transferred from Lisnacree to Rostrevor in the mid-60s, where he lined out alongside Peter McGrath for six seasons. McGrath, who went on to manage the Mourne men to two more All-Irelands in 1991 and '94, told The Irish News:

The Down team that won the Sam Maguire Cup in 1960, front l/r: Eamonn McKay, Patsy O Hagan, Paddy Doherty, Kevin Mussen, George Lavery, Tony Hadden, Brian Morgan. Back: James McCartan, Joe Lennon, Jarlath Carey, Leo Murphy, Dan McCartan, Sean O Neill, Kevin O Neill, Pat Rice.

"During Leo's playing days with Down, his role at full back was a traditional role. He was a tall, strong commanding figure, he had great hands. He very rarely caught a ball above his head - he was one of those players who was able to run, jump and take a ball right at the very top of his chest.

"He was a no-nonsense player but along with the likes of George Lavery and Pat Rice, they got the job done without any great degree of fuss. Unfortunately we also lost Joe Lennon last year but they were great men, a great team, and Leo was certainly one of the pin-up boys of that team."

The following tribute was posted on the Down GAA website: "Down GAA are saddened to learn today of the death of one of our great stalwarts Leo Murphy, full back on our All Ireland Winning Teams of 1960 and 61.

"Leo was a native of Kilkeel and attended St Colman's College in Newry, where he played on school teams with great friends Dan McCartan and Fintan Mussen amongst others winning a Mac Rory Cup medal in 1957.

"In 1957 Leo made his senior debut at 18 years of age as a member of the Down Team defeated by Tyrone in the Dr Lagan Cup Final, where he was starting to make a mark at full back.

"In 1958 he won his first County honours as a member of the Ulster Junior Championship wining team who had two points to spare over Antrim. An Ulster Senior Final appearance followed but there was to be defeat by Derry and on a day of great disappointment, the newspapers reported that a 'Youthful Leo Murphy just out of Colleges Football had an outstanding game in the Down Defence'

"In 1959 Leo won his first Ulster Senior Championship Medal and in 1960 he was now firmly established at Full Back as Down went on to win the Sam Maguire for the first time with that memorable win over Kerry. Leo had been a colossus in the defeat of Offaly in the Semi Final and in the final he showed again why he was a supreme full back of that era, when he got the better of Kerry full forward John Dowling.

"In 1961 Kerry were conquered again in the All Ireland Semi Final and the Dublin Media marvelled at the high fielding of the "Ice Cool Kid from Mourne" Leo Murphy. Leo won his battle with Donie O'Hanlon in the final as Down triumphed over Offaly by 3-6 to 2-8 and Sam Maguire crossed the border again.

"Leo won Ulster Championship medals in 1963, 65 and 66 before having to retire through injury in 1967 after the Ulster Final defeat by Cavan. Railway Cup honours came his way in 1963 and 1964 and in 1962 Leo represented Ireland in the match against the combined Universities where he faced fellow Down men Kevin and Sean O'Neill.

"Leo played his Club football beginning with Lisnacree in 1957 before playing with Kilkeel and won a Down Junior Championship medal with the Club in 1960. He played for Rostrevor up to 1975 when he retired from Club Football and later was to manage St Colman's Lisnacree and Kilkeel in 1977/78 and 79 winning Division 4 in 1978.

"In the early 1980's Leo managed Rostrevor and in 1983/84 was All Ireland Fresher manager with Ulster Polytechnic and was at the helm in 1985 as Jordanstown entered the Sigerson Cup for the first time.

"Down County Chairman Sean Rooney said "Leo Murphy was a giant of a man in every way, he commanded the square as a full back and was a man who gave great service to the County for over a decade."

"We extend our sympathies to his wife Sodilva, his son Leon, daughters Ciara and Tara, grandson Conor and remembering too his late son Donard John."

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

Funeral Arrangements---Leo will be reposing at the family home, 23 Cloughmore Road, Rostrevor, where respects may be paid between 1pm and 10pm on Tuesday, February 21st. Removal of the remains from his family home on Wednesday at 10:15am for 11:00am Requiem Mass in St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church. Burial afterwards in Kilbroney Cemetery. Family circle only in the home on the morning of the funeral.

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