He was Mr Kilmihil Football and then Mr Cratloe Football – Martin Murphy hopes that the common denominator between both will be the Jack Daly Cup, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.
Back on the county final stage
“HE said he’d never walk the line again,” says son of father, but there aren’t too many football people who believed it would be true.
Those bones were made for walking the line, just when you consider how deep into the marrow this football thing goes.
It’s Martin Murphy, the original Mr Cratloe Football and Mr Kilmihil Football before that as captain, trainer and inspiration behind his home place’s crowded hour of that lone senior championship win in 1980.
“He was the top dog,” says Martin ‘Ogie’ Murphy of his father. “The Colm Collins of the team back then.”
And one who was always going to walk the line again, once recovered from a work accident last year. “There he was,” says Ogie, “up and down the line against Kilmurry in the first round, something we knew he’d do again”.
At once Cratloe were away and have never really looked back since, clinically dispatching every opposition en route to the county final. Kilmurry Ibrickane by seven in the opening round; Cooraclare by 11 after a hiatus of nearly 80 days; then Kilrush Shamrocks by five and Éire Óg by five in successive weeks as Cratloe football at senior level picked up its biggest head of steam since last reaching the final frontier back in Clare football’s maiden championship voyage in 1887.
It brings Murphy back to final stage he graced so many times as a player and before that as spectator on Kilmihil’s first county final day out back in ’58 against Kilrush Shamrocks.
“I was ten years of age and it was an awful wet day in Kilmihil,” he recalled of that county final a few years back. “After that I remember in the mid sixties things were going very bad in Kilmihil and we were even thinking of packing it up at senior level and going down junior.
“But we stayed with it and I remember we played Cooraclare one day in a league game, won and never looked back after that. We were always there or thereabouts. We thought we’d never win one, but we always came back for more and finally won it,” he added.
It’s that very same attitude that has served Cratloe football well – they kept at it, so much so that 55 years after Murphy’s first county final experience he’s back on the big stage again and as enthusiastic as he was back then as that ten-year old.
“They’re hard to win, very hard and we knew that in Kilmihil, but the thing was to keep going and that’s what we’ve done in Cratloe,” says Murphy.
“There were times in the last few years when I thought the chance was gone,” he admits, “because the game (semi-final) against Kilmurry was the one we should have won and we should have beaten them in the first round last year.
“It was hard to see us coming back after those defeats, but they’re an unbelievable bunch. They’re unreal. There’s no messing. They’re just mad for sport and were mad to get back and have another go this year.
“I remember in 2009 Sean Chaplin or one of the lads said in some interview that ‘all we want is games’. That’s what they’re like, they’ll play Sunday after Sunday, after Sunday. That’s what they’re all about and that’s why they’ve made this progress,” he adds.
The county final might have been far off during Cratloe’s Garry Cup campaign when the side bereft of county players never every day out ended the seven-match campaign in relegation to Division 3 for 2014.
“It was very hard,” says Murphy, “because we just didn’t have our players, but in a way it helped because I remember talking to Sean Collins before we played Quilty and I said to him ‘Sean we’re in serious trouble here, we’re only a bad second, what are we going to do’.
“But I also said ‘if we beat Quilty the thing could take of again’. That’s what has happened. We beat them and that was the lift off for us. You get good by winning, you get to know your team by winning. I was back in Kilkee after we beat Quilty and back there they were saying it was the greatest shock when it came over the airwaves, but we knew we could beat them,” he adds.
Now one more will cap a remarkable journey for Cratloe football. From the days when Martin togged out to make up the numbers and helped breed a football culture in Cratloe to county senior final day.
“I always said back the years that some day we might bring the Jack Daly down to Cratloe,” he says, “and we have our chance now”.
Just to take it like Kilmihil did in 1980.
It would be as good as 1980.
No, it would be better, given the journey they’ve taken, along which they started to dream of bringing the Jack Daly to Cratloe.