His time in London may have been short, but Ollie Murphy’s impact left a lasting impression on anyone who saw the talented young Meath footballer in action during the summer of ‘94, and especially Tara GFC.
There was no doubt that Murphy was destined for bigger, and better, things.
A late addition into London manager PJ McGinley’s side in the build-up to Galway, Murphy helped Tara win three trophies that year, as well as reaching the county final, before being summoned ‘home’ by Meath boss Sean Boylan.
He would go on to help the Royal county to All Ireland success in 1996 and 1999, scoring the decisive goal in the latter final.
“Ollie was a brilliant footballer, he was fantastic. Players like that stand out,” remembers Ollie’s 1994 London teammate Jim Landy.
A sentiment endorsed by former Tara chairperson Sean Faughnan. He said: “Ollie was something else; all we’d ever shout was ‘sent the ball into Ollie’.
“He was very determined to get his scores and there wasn’t a back who could mark him – he was outstanding.”
Murphy took London GAA by storm that year. His points scoring statistics alone for Tara were frightening.
The Carnaross native arrived in London fresh from helping his club to an unprecedented intermediate title success in 1993.
That year, he’d also been part of a star-studded Meath Minor team, alongside the likes of Trevor Giles, Darren Fay, Hank Traynor and Paddy Reynolds, that lost the All-Ireland final to Cork.
Murphy was 18 when he joined Tara in 1994. The club’s manager at the time was Ollie Lynch – also a Meath man.
Lynch put an advert in the Meath Chronicle looking for any players who were planning on coming over to London.
“Ollie was the only one to respond [to the avert] at the time,” recalls Lynch’s son Stephen, who arrived over a month or two before Murphy.
Murphy moved into a house in Hatch End with both Stephen and Ollie Lynch.
“Ollie [Lynch] knew of him and would have seen him at home. He said to me ‘I’ve a livewire coming over from Meath’. And my God, he was a livewire,” says Faughnan.
Murphy ended up working for Faughnan that summer.
“All I can remember was the long-hop, he was a great man for the long-hop. He’d gain yards and would be in on top of the goalkeeper in no time.”
In a 2017 interview with buzz.ie, Murphy said: “I finished the Leaving Cert. Usual story, nothing to be at, so I headed to London.
“There wasn’t a word about it in Meath. Away off with you, and good luck.
“There was a Meathman over there, Ollie Lynch from Trim, and he got me hooked up with the Tara club.”
Murphy wasted no time in making an impact on London GAA. He marked his Tara debut, against St Brendan’s in the Tipperary Cup at Colindale on 19 March, by scoring 2-4. Tara won by 3-8 to 0-10.
He followed that up on 26 March against the Kingdom at Parnell Park in the Tipperary Cup with another performance of “genuine quality”.
“Murphy could well become one of the big names on the London scene” wrote the Irish World, who described his early displays as “sparkling”.
The next day (27 March) he was selected to play for London’s Under 21 against the visiting St Maurs team of Dublin at Parnell Park.
London’s “potent new weapon” was a “class above” everyone else on the pitch, said the Irish World.
Murphy finished with a personal tally of 2-5. There was “nothing the visitors defence could do to contain him”. London won by 4-10 to 2-8.
Not surprisingly, his points scoring prowess caught the attention of London manager PJ McGinley.
Murphy duly made his London senior debut in April against Tipperary in the McGrath Cup final at Ruislip.
It didn’t take him long to announce himself. After Tipp had taken the lead, “Murphy got his prospective London career off to the brightest of starts when he withstood the tackles of two Tipperary defenders to slot over the equaliser in the 5th minute”.
Six minutes later he “fielded delightfully, turned and placed the ball to the bottom right of the Tipperary goal”, but his shot was saved by the Tipp ‘keeper.
London lost 2-13 to 0-4 in a game described as a “sad day for the London senior footballers”. Murphy’s “opportunistic skills” provided one of the very few “bright lights”.
Warm up games for London’s seniors followed against Leitrim (23 April) and Mayo (29 April).
Sandwiched in between, on Monday evening (25 April), Murphy scored 1-5 in Tara’s total of 1-10 in their win over Heston at Kingsbury to send them into the Tipperary Cup final. His goal six minutes from the end settled that semi-final.
Tara and Murphy went on to beat Tir Chonaill Gaels in the final played at Ruislip on a Wednesday evening (18 May). Murphy scored 0-4 (3f) in a 1-6 to 0-6 win – Tara’s first in the competition for 40 years.
And so to Murphy’s one competitive appearance for London – the Connacht Championship quarter-final with Galway at Ruislip on 5 June.
The Tribesman won 2-21 to 0-6, with Murphy contributing one of London’s tally.
“They hammered us but I don’t think they beat us by as much as they beat Meath in the 2001 All-Ireland,” Murphy told buzz.ie in 2017.
On July 17, Murphy inspired Tara to victory over Round Towers in the senior championship semi-finals. The Meath Minor scored 2-3 as Tara won by 2-17 to 0-8.
But there was to be no senior title for Murphy in his one and only year in London, as on 31 July Tara were edged out by St Brendan’s by 1-9 to 1-6 in the final. Tara’s goal, almost inevitably, came from the boot of Murphy.
Consolation for Murphy came on 28 August, as Tara overcame Tir Chonaill Gaels in the Division 1 League final. Murphy scored 2-4.
And in the Conway Cup final on 20 November, the prolific Murphy claimed another two goals, both coming late on, as a depleted Tir Chonaill Gaels were beaten 2-8 to 0-6 at Ruislip.
“Even at that age he was a brilliant player; he stuck out like a sore thumb he was that good. He was brilliant at getting a goal in a game,’ recalled Stephen Lynch.
“You could see from day one that he was a level above everybody else. He was very, very good. He was a really intelligent player; once he got the ball, nine times out of ten it was a score.”
Three out of four trophies for Tara, but Murphy’s time in London was drawing to an end. Word of his exploits in a Tara jersey had reached the ears of Meath boss Sean Boylan.
“Sean got wind of his performances here. He didn’t want him getting too involved in the London scene, and he made the call to bring him back,” remembers Faughnan.
“The two Ollie’s came to me and said ‘Ollie has to go back’. Ollie [Murphy] said that Sean [Boylan] had rung him he wanted him home.”
He added: “He was a lovely lad; I don’t think he ever got a yellow or red card. We were sad to lose him, but he went on to win two All Irelands.”
Tara and London’s loss was undoubtedly Meath’s gain, although Tara made amends for their defeat to St Brendan’s in the ’94 senior county final by being crowned champions the following year.
As chance would have it, when Murphy went home, his room in the house in Hatch End was taken by Meath goalkeeper Conor Martin. Martin never played with Tara, but trained with them regularly.
“He was living the high life; Meath would fly him home for matches or training,” says Stephen.
Murphy came off the bench in 1996 as Meath beat Mayo in a replay to lift the Sam Maguire, but it was in 1997 that he really came into his own.
Helping Meath reach the Leinster final, he racked up 1-1 against Dublin, 1-4 in the replay semi-final win over Kildare, and 0-3 in a losing cause against Offaly in the final.
He picked up another Leinster runners up medal in 1998, but made amends the following year when he scored 1-5 in the final win over Dublin. That came on the back of 1-3 in the semi-final against Offaly.
Meath went on to beat Cork in the All Ireland final by 1-11 to 1-8 – Murphy with the decisive goal.
Another Leinster title followed in 2001, with Murphy scoring 2-1 in the All Ireland quarter-final win over Westmeath and four points in the semi-final win against Kerry.
But he was subsequently forced from the field with a hand injury ten minutes into the second half of Meath’s defeat to Galway in the final. Murphy played on with Meath until 2006.
In recent years, he’s continued to tog out for Carnaross and in 2017 was a member if its Meath junior ‘D’ championship winning side.
Two All Irelands, two All Stars, three Leinster titles – and one sensational, and eventful, London summer – in a glittering career for Ollie Murphy.