John Murphy, right, commentating for Dundalk FM with his colleague Ger Cunningham
Recently Gerry Malone caught up with Lilywhites legend and Dundalk FM Broadcaster John Murphy. In Part 2, the Quay Native speaks about some key figures around Oriel Park during his time as a player, along with how he first became a commentator.
John described how coach Colin Bellew contributed to Dundalk winning the league. The club won by a point. There were 15 games in that league. The last game was against Bohemians. Dundalk only drew 2-2. Bohs had been winning 2-0.
Jimmy Hasty and another Dundalk man Francy Callan got the goals. Drumcondra needed to beat Cork in midweek to win the league. The result went right for Dundalk.
John was sitting in his house. There was a knock on the door. Colin Bellew, who had a key coaching role with Dundalk, was at the door when he opened it. Colin put his arms around John and told him that the result had gone Dundalk’s way and that they were champions.
Colin told John that Dundalk had qualified for Europe for the 1963/64 season. Tragically Colin died suddenly three weeks later in Saint Joe’s Park and missed out on Europe and everything else that went with life.
John said Colin had done marvellous work with the club. John said it had to have been very hard to take for the Bellew family. He noted it was hard enough for the team and himself to take that Colin had been taken so suddenly.
John revealed that Colin had obtained a coaching qualification from Walter Winterbottom that nobody in Ireland ever obtained. John said Colin played a key role in Dundalk winning the league in 1963.
John revealed that Jimmy Hasty used stay to with him on a Saturday night. He said they would go over to the Redemptorists to mass. Jimmy was the nicest person you could meet ever.
The Zurich Tie
John said the following season when Dundalk took on Zurich nobody knew anything about them. The committee running Dundalk knew nothing about them either. There was no manager.
On the day of the first leg with FC Zurich the Dundalk players minibus left at half five. The bus arrived just three quarters of an hour before the game. The Lilywhites had only one ball between the whole team for the warm-up. Zurich players had a ball apiece.
John recalled that there were 25,000 people at the game. They lost the first leg 3-0. Two weeks later Dundalk travelled to Zurich for the 2nd leg. All of the Dundalk players were relaxed and had no care in the world.
Dundalk took a shock 2-0 lead. Jimmy Hasty hit the crossbar and nearly made it 3-0. Francie Callan got the first goal. Jimmy Hasty got the second goal. They grew in confidence and gave it a right go.
Sadly, Zurich got a second goal killing off Dundalk’s interest in the tie. But the Louth club grabbed all the headlines becoming the first Irish team to win a game in Europe away from home.
Remarkably throughout his time at Dundalk he was an amateur and did not get paid. John got 8 international caps with the Irish amateur team. This was over three seasons between 1961 to 1964.
John was in a side that competed for the Olympics. Holland and Great Britain made up the group with Ireland. The last game of the group was in the Goldstone ground in Brighton. Ireland were beaten 3-2 by Great Britain.
Had Ireland won they would have qualified for the Olympic Games in Rome. John said there was a man called Hasty from Belfast on the Great Britain team. John went over and asked him did he know a man called Jimmy Hasty. It turned out they were cousins.
John moved to Glenavon with a signing on fee of £800. He said he was getting married and the money paid for half the cost of his new house in Oliver Plunkett Park. John still lives there today. John said he loved his 4 years at Glenavon. He was allowed to do all his training for at Oriel.
John returned to Dundalk in 1968 when Patsy McKeown was injured. He played in the second leg of the Inter City Fairs Cup, now the Europa League. Dundalk advanced but were well beaten over the 2 legs by Glasgow Rangers. Alex Ferguson played for Rangers in the first leg at Ibrox.
Dundalk Legends Remembered
John was full of praise for John Smith who managed Dundalk for one season. Smith came to Dundalk on the back of winning the league cup with Swindon in April 1973 in a game against Arsenal. He transformed Dundalk when he arrived as manager in July 1973.
Two of his most famous signings were Richie Blackmore and Jimmy Dainty. Both played key roles for Dundalk throughout the Jim McLaughlin era. Jim replaced John in November 1974. John Smith went to Greece as a coach. He wanted John Murphy to go with him.
But he could not go. John Smith returned to live in Dundalk, but sadly died at a young age. Murphy revealed that John Smith is buried in Dowdallshill. The Dundalk great stated that he visited his house every week. He revealed that John Smith wall papered his house, he was so kind.
John went on to talk about the rest of his career as mentioned above. John did reveal that when Dundalk won the league in 1976 the nicest thing that ever happened to him in football occurred.
It happened when he met the late Brian McConville coming out of the Imperial following the celebrations after winning the 1976 league. Brian called John over. He opened his hand and showed John the league medal he had won.
Brian told him that John owned half the medal given all the work he had done for him. John said that Brian was a marvellous player and that he loved Dundalk. Tragically Brian died suddenly in February 1978 at home in Dundalk having played a game against St Pat’s in Inchicore earlier that day.
Less than a couple of hours before he died, Brian told John Murphy he would see him at training the following Tuesday. John said he was shocked when he got the phone call about Brian’s death. John said Brian’s death shook him to his very foundation.
The same happened when he heard about the murder of Jimmy Hasty in Belfast on the 11th of October 1974. Jimmy was on his way to work at a bookies when he was gunned down by Loyalist terrorists in a purely sectarian murder.
He died just because he was catholic. John said Jimmy got on with everyone. The former Dundalk striker was shot in the back.
John said that his career at Dundalk FM took off after they had covered a Summer League Cup final around 2006. The station decided to cover the Dundalk games both away and at home. It gave Dundalk FC great coverage.
They broadcast all games live. At that time, they were unique to be the only radio station to do live commentary on a full game every week. John built up a huge fan base. Perhaps he is best known for his commentary on the Robbie Benson goal in Tallaght in the Champions League Qualifiers
That goal saw Dundalk to beating Belarusian side Bate Borisov. The result was a massive shock. RTE went looking for audio commentary of the Benson goal. They discovered John’s top class commentary of the goal and played it over and over again.
No other radio station had decided to broadcast the game live in full. Dundalk FM did and John’s commentary on the Benson goal will live forever. John says it was great to be back involved in soccer when Dundalk FM started broadcasting all of the games live.
John said it has been a great privilege for him to commentate on the games. He says when he is doing the games he thinks of the people at work or in hospital who cannot get to the games.
John says he kicks every ball when Dundalk are playing. He felt that Stephen Kenny was a magnificent manager. He said that he was the type of manager that if he was still playing, he would run through a wall for him.
John said he had great respect for Vinny Perth and the work he had done for the club. He said the arrival of the new owners made him feel part of Dundalk again after Peak6 left. He said that he never felt part of the club in the Peak6 era.
John Murphy has been associated with Dundalk from the 1950’s right up to today. He told me he would sum up his career as being a dedicated man. He said he was a no hoper at one time, but did not give in.
He said he would never give in until he knew he would not make it. He says when he looks at his trophies and his international caps and league medals he says to himself, “John Murphy you are the luckiest man in Dundalk.”
John Murphy Is a Dundalk FC living legend. He is Mr Dundalk. I was delighted to get the chance to talk to a true Lillywhite. John has all of his children and grandchildren living around him.
Sadly, his wife died some time ago and at too young an age. I’m sure she inspired John to be the great person he is today. The rest of his family do too. Thanks for everything John. I hope we can look forward to your commentaries for many years to come.
*If you missed Part 1 of this cracking feature with John Murphy, a link is available to below.
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