Footballing great who inspired Roscommon and led them to two All-Ireland titles

Jimmy Murray pictured in his pub in Knockroghery recently with
Brian Mullins.

Jimmy Murray pictured in his pub in Knockroghery recently with Brian Mullins.

 

Jimmy Murray:The sudden death of Jimmy Murray (89), on Tuesday last robs the Gaelic Athletic Association of one of its most decorated Gaelic footballers. The Roscommon man, one of only six captains to lift the Sam Maguire Cup twice, was the only Roscommon man ever to captain the county to ultimate glory.

He was also the oldest surviving All-Ireland captain and the winner of four Connacht senior championships, two Connacht junior titles, and one All-Ireland junior championship. At club level, he captained his club St Patrick's to all of their six Roscommon senior football championships, and he won two county junior championships.

Jimmy Murray was born to John and Susan (nee Walls) Murray, in May 1917, in Knockroghery, Co Roscommon.

His mother, a native of Magherafelt, Co Derry, was a teacher and his father had just a year earlier purchased a business premises in Knockroghery.

The business developed over the years into a thriving bar, grocery, drapery and hardware, and, Jimmy, the eldest son, later took it over and spent all his working life there.

He went to the local national school and his secondary school education was confined to brief stints at Harrison Hall technical school and the De La Salle Brothers in Roscommon town.

From an early age, he was a Gaelic football fanatic, and he played minor football for Roscommon in 1934 and 1935.

In 1939, he played on a Roscommon team that defeated Limerick in the All-Ireland junior football semi-final, only to lose to Dublin in the final. A year later, Roscommon returned to win the final with a comprehensive triumph over Westmeath.

The stock of Roscommon football was on the rise, and more experienced players like Jimmy Murray, Dr Donal Keenan (later to serve as president of the GAA), Owensie Hoare and Hugh Gibbons looked forward to the arrival on the senior team of the young players who won All-Ireland minor titles for the county in 1939 and 1941.

The senior breakthrough came in 1943, when they defeated Galway in the Connacht final, a victory that Jimmy Murray later described as "our greatest victory until that point".

They went on to beat Louth in the All-Ireland semi-final and captured their first title with a 2-7 to 2-2 win over Cavan.

A colleague this week described Jimmy's performance in this match as "his finest hour - he had taken Roscommon from oblivion to the All-Ireland title".

His brother Phelim also played on that team, and again in 1944, when Roscommon defeated the traditional powerhouses of the game, Kerry, to add a second title.

In 1946, Roscommon came tantalisingly close to adding a third title. In the All-Ireland final against Kerry, Murray sustained a broken nose, but came back on to the field to almost score a winning point.

As a footballer, Jimmy Murray was a stylish and tenacious centre forward who made little of his relatively small stature to thrive in an era when physical strength was celebrated. He had outstanding leadership qualities, and even today his name is cited in Roscommon as a man to be emulated.

Last October, members of the Roscommon minor football team stopped off at Jimmy Murray's pub in Knockroghery, as they transported the All-Ireland Minor trophy (Tom Markham Cup) back to the county after defeating Kerry in a replay.

"It was a very emotional moment. He was old and feeble, but it meant so much to the players to meet Jimmy," said a county board official who witnessed the meeting.

Jimmy Murray was also an accomplished hurler and won one Roscommon senior championship with Roscommon Gaels in 1938.

Away from the field of play, he was a lover of music, especially famous tenors such as Athlone's John Count McCormack and Mario Lanza. His party piece was The West's Awake and he even recorded this song on a charity CD he produced in 2003 - a recording debutant at the age of 85. He was a daily Massgoer . Jimmy Murray married Ann Costello, Headford, Co Galway, who died in 1992 and at whose side he was laid to rest on Thursday.

He is survived by sons John, Michael and Jimmy, daughters Susan and Mary, grandchildren, sisters Maura and Sue, brothers Canon Paddy and Ollie, and a large extended family.

Jimmy Murray: born May 5th, 1917; died January 16th, 2007