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24 May 2022

An in depth chat with Dundalk FC legend John Murphy-Part 1 His Football Career

An in depth chat with Dundalk FC legend John Murphy-Part 1 His Football Career

John Murphy, right, commentating for Dundalk FM with his colleague Ger Cunningham

I have been meaning to catch up and get talking to John Murphy, a true Lillywhite legend whose connection with his beloved Dundalk FC spans from 1958 when he signed for the club right up to today with his renowned commentaries with Dundalk FM alongside his co commentator Ger Cunningham.

John was born and reared by his parents at their home at Saint Gerard’s Square which is located near Barrack Street and is very much a part of the Quay community.  He is very proud of his roots and says he always wants to be remembered as a Quayman.

John is a man who is a treat to interview. Yet in his own way, although he has so much to be proud of with his achievements in football, he rarely speaks about them unless asked.

In his own way John is a very quiet person. But he is also a very outgoing person as well. He is kind and thoughtful. In 1996 when my Da Jim Malone passed away, John wrote my mum the most beautiful of letters.

I remember her talking about it and it was so nice it would leave anyone in tears. My Da was on the board of Directors when he joined the club in 1958. The two got on really well over the period John was with the club and the years beyond.

Early Career

John was born on May 3rd 1938 just over a year from the start of the 2nd World War. He made 215 league appearances for Dundalk. He scored 17 goals during his time at the club. He was a left Back. He made his league debut with Dundalk on the 7th of April 1958.

John was captain of the 1963 league winning side. He got eight amateur caps during his career with Ireland and was assistant manager with Dundalk from 1973 to 1977. He started with John Smith and continued as assistant with Jim McLaughlin from 1974 to 1977.

This time was a golden period for Dundalk in which the club won the league for the first time in 13 years. In 1977 Dundalk won the cup for the first time in 19 years with John as assistant and Jim McLaughlin as manager.

He began his soccer career as an inside forward with local junior club Saint Patrick’s and Norton Villa. He was called up to the Dundalk first team in April 1958 for a league appearance against Bohemians.

In October 1959 he was brought into the first team on a regular period. This time saw Dundalk play in a Leinster Senior Cup game against Home Farm. Dundalk lost the final to Drumcondra. But it was the first game for John to collect one of his many mementos.

He scored five goals for Dundalk that season playing as inside forward and started 1960 at his usual position as striker. But by the end of September, he was partnering Shay Noonan at full back. He stayed in this position for the rest of his career.

In 1962-63 the Dundalk defence saw an invincible three player formation with John Murphy, Patsy McKeown and Timmy Lyons. Patsy was also from Dundalk. This team also included the one armed striker Jimmy Hasty who took Irish soccer by storm.

With Christy Barron in goals the Dundalk rear-guard was invincible, which led to the club having its then most successful period. This team won the league, Top Four Cup, Presidents Cup and were runners up in the Casey Cup and the League of Ireland Shield.

Dundalk also became the first Irish team to win an away game in the European Cup when they beat FC Zurich of Switzerland in the second leg. John played a key role in that game and was club captain in 1962/63 and 1963/64.

Murphy won eight Irish international amateur caps, which included all four qualifying games for the 1960 Olympics. Ireland were drawn in a group with Great Britain and Holland. They beat the Dutch 6-3 at Dalymount Park in Dublin.

Later Career

John left Dundalk in the summer of 1964 for Irish League side Glenavon. The club received a transfer fee of £500 which was massive in those days. John received an £800 signing on fee and was paid £25 a week. Dundalk could only offer John £5 a week in wages.

He stayed with Glenavon for four years and picked up an Irish Cup runners up medal in his first season. In 1965 he played for the Irish League against the Scottish League at Hampden Park. In 1966 John won a City Cup winners medal.

In 1968 Dundalk full back Patsy McKeown ended his career in tragic circumstances through a bad injury picked up against Dutch team Dos Utrecht in Holland. That left the way open for John to return to the club.

The Lilywhites beat Utrecht over the two legs winning the tie in extra time at Oriel. This was in the old Inter City Fairs Cup, now the Europa League. John was part of the Dundalk team that played Glasgow Rangers over two legs.

The first leg was played at Ibrox Stadium, where Dundalk were well beaten. They were also well beaten in the second leg at Oriel Park. The second leg was marred by serious violence caused by Rangers fans. The Irish national flag was burned in the process.

In October 1969 John moved to Drumcondra, who played at Tolka Park in Dublin. John played 20 league games for the Drums. He finally finished his league career on March 15th 1970 in a league game against Athlone Town.

John finished his playing career at Newry Town and began his managerial career with Quay Celtic before spending four seasons as assistant manager at Dundalk. One of the seasons was with John Smith, while the other three were with Jim McLaughlin, landing the league and cup over two seasons.

He moved from Dundalk to local Leinster Senior League side Bank Rovers and guided his team to the FAI Cup proper twice. On both occasions they were beaten by Senior opposition in Waterford and Cork.

John went on to manage new League of Ireland side Monaghan United in 1985-86. He introduced a number of young Dundalk players to the league via Monaghan.

These included Tommy Tasker, Bernie Savage and Mickey Coburn backed up by the highly experienced Willie Crawley who won everything there was to win under Jim McLaughlin.

Murphy’s Younger Years

John’s place in the local Dundalk FC Hall of Fame was secured with his partnership with Patsy McKeown in the 1962-63 league winning team. He was the first ever locally born captain to lift a league of Ireland trophy for Dundalk in 1963.

Well-known local soccer writer Robbie Rafferty described John as one of the great local full backs from a very impressive list. John told me he was born and reared in Saint Gerard’s Square Dundalk.

He told me his dad worked in Lockington’s coal yard while his mother was a housewife. John said he had two brothers, Jim and Tom, who are both sadly deceased. John said that people from the Quay or Kay as the as the locals call it are very Clannish.

John recalled the first ball he ever kicked was a tennis ball on the road. As a kid, it was the roads where he began to play football as there were no cars around. He learned his trade as a footballer with a tennis ball.

John attended Realt na Mara Primary school in Seatown. When he made his communion John says the boys moved to the CBS primary school. John said he went from first to 6th class and then left school.

In those days there was no such thing as free secondary school education. It was fee paying. John said his dad wanted him to be an apprentice mechanic in Lockingtons where he worked at the coal.

John also got an opportunity to start work in Rossans shoe factory. He decided to opt for Rossans and never looked back. Rossans factory burnt down and moved to Clark’s shoe factory which closed in 1984.

At its height it employed more than 3,000 people. John said he worked in the shoe factory most of his life. He says he never made any shoes but made the knives that would cut out the different parts of the shoes and then they would be sewn up.

He remembered the first soccer team he ever played for was one from Haynestown in the nearby parish of Haggardstown and Blackrock. He played as a goalkeeper in his first game and let in six goals.

The Junior games were all played in Oriel Park. John says he was moved out of goals and ended up as a striker. He was a great header of a ball.  He moved from Haynestown to Saint Patrick’s to play under 18 football.

There was only under 14 and under 18 football in Dundalk during his time. Saint Patrick’s had a big club room in River Lane. John played Summer League football when he was then approached to come and train at Oriel Park.

It was Jack Kieran, who was chairman of Dundalk at one stage, who brought John to the club in 1958. John’s debut against Bohemians in the League was played three weeks after the FAI Cup final that Dundalk won.

He did not play in the cup final but following his debut a month later played against Bohemians. His career took off and the rest he says was history. John was the 15th selection with Dundalk for the 1958 cup final team.

There were no substitutes. But he was fourth in line if the club was ravaged with injuries. However, as there were no such thing as substitutions he did not travel with the team that won the cup.

The 1962/63 Season

John says he was a regular first team player from 1960. He said he was made captain in 1963 by then Director Jim Malone. John amazingly revealed there were no club managers in those days and that the teams were picked by a committee of eight made up mostly of club directors.

He says the committee would meet on a Tuesday night to select the team for Sunday. John says the first he would know if he was picked was when he bought the Evening Herald at the Square on a Friday and the team was in a notices part of the paper.

There was a notices space left for the Racing results but the Dundalk team was included. John said he wondered how Jimmy Hasty was going to be able to play when he heard he had only one arm.

This was the season 1962-63, the year Dundalk won the league. Jimmy played his first league game against Cork at Oriel. He scored. John said at the end of the game the Cork captain asked him where Dundalk got Jimmy from. The Cork skipper believed Jimmy was a sensation.

John said it was magnificent winning the league in 1963. He pointed out that only two locals have ever lifted League trophies as captain.  He lifted the now equivalent of the Premier Division title in 1963.David Crawley lifted the first Division league trophy in 2001. Both John pointed out are from the Quay area of the town.

*If you are enjoying this trip down memory lane, be sure to check out part Two of Gerry's chat with John, which can be accessed via the below link.

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