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Tommy Murphy Of Laois - Known As The Boy Wonder Of 1930's Gaelic
Graigecullen is on the western side of the large bustling town of Carlow and is only divided by the river Barrow which defines its county boundary lines. This boundary line made Tommy Murphy of the Graigecullen G.A.A. club, a famous Laois footballer, yet he was more central to football life in Carlow.
Known as ‘The Boy Wonder’ of gaelic football, Tommy’s club, Graigecullen, were registered as a Carlow club in the early 20th century of G.A.A. affairs. However the clubs two years suspension in Carlow G.A.A. enabled Graigecullen resume their playing activities in Laois territory.
Tommy Murphy, born in 1921, attended local Carlow schools and it was whilst a student at St. Mary’s College, Knockbeg, Co. Carlow, that the emerging football talent of Tommy Murphy surfaced. The Carlow college had a great reputation as a nursery for up and coming gaelic footballers and Tommy honed his blossoming skills at the famed college.
Graigecullen club, founded in 1898, would become known throughout the land, with Tommy Murphy their great source of pride as a gaelic footballer of immense talent. Tommy made his senior inter county debut at just the tender age of sixteen, having represented his county in minor football the previous year at fifteen. Offaly were the opponents for Tommy’s championship debut in 1937 at Newbridge.
Laois lost to Kerry in the All Ireland semi final after a replay, losing by one point. The Kingdom went on to record another famous Sam Maguire triumph. Laois had many great players in the 1930's era and the emergence of the new ‘Boy Wonder’ gave a further impetus to the title aspirations of the O’Moore County. Three successive Leinster senior football titles in 1936; 1937 and 1938 signaled a new era, but again the county failed to capitalise on the three in a row provincial titles and had to wait for a further provincial title until 1946.
Tommy, now at age twenty five, and in the prime of his career, had great expectations high on the Laois agenda. However the county would not claim another provincial title until Mick O’Dwyer spearheaded the 2003 success. Tommy’s exploits created the famous nickname "The Boy Wonder" during the late 1930's and 1940's and he became a household name all over Ireland.
He won Leinster Senior Championship medals in 1937 and 1938. It was not until 1946, when a young veteran by the name of Tommy Murphy, was again very much to the fore. Tommy had now become an integral part of the Leinster Railway Cup teams, but glory with the county continued to escape him as the years rolled by. 1946 saw Laois take their first Leinster title for eight years, defeating Kildare in the final.
His roll of honour includes eight Laois senior medals with Graiguecullen and various Railway Cup medals for Leinster. His last game for Laois was against Wexford in the 1953 Championship and two years later, he played his last game for Graiguecullen against Annanough.
Off the field he contested the 1948 general election for Laois-offaly as a Clann na Poblachta candidate but failed to get elected.
Tommy Murphy died in May 1985 and was buried in his native Graiguecullen. In 1999 the Gaelic Athletic Association honoured Tommy by naming him on the Gaelic Football "Team of the Millennium."
He was further honoured in 2005 when the G.A.A. named the "Tommy Murphy Cup", a new football competition, in his honour. For many years Murphy worked as a land steward and later he was employed with the department of Post and Telegraphs.
Derry JF Doody