Irish Olympic track runner Frank Murphy dies aged 69

Won a silver medal in the 1500m in the 1969 European Championships in Athens

Frank Murphy, who was inducted into the National Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, has died aged 69. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Frank Murphy, who was inducted into the National Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, has died aged 69. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

 

The death has taken place of two-time Olympian Frank Murphy, who won the silver medal over 1,500m at the 1969 European Championships in Athens, and also broke several Irish records. He was 69, and had been suffering from an illness for several years.

Born and raised in Drumcondra, his first Olympic representation was at the Mexico Olympics in the 1500m, and four years later he did so again in Munich over 800m and 1,500m.

In 2014, he was inducted into the Athletics Ireland Hall of Fame, on the 45th anniversary of him winning that silver medal in Athens in a time of 3:39.51, a new Irish record.

The first of the many great barriers he broke was four minutes for the mile, on June 1st, 1968. By then, Murphy was already running beyond the norm. His schoolboy records on the track helped convince Jumbo Elliott to offer him a scholarship at Villanova, and in his first summer home in 1967, just turned 20, Murphy won his second successive Irish senior mile title.

Back then, there was still considerable mystique about breaking four minutes for the mile. When Murphy ran his 3:58.6, only three other Irishmen had run sub-four.

In 1969, on the back of winning an American collegiate indoor title over 800m, he enjoyed his best ever season. He demolished and demoralised his opponents to win a British 1,500m title, then went to the 1969 European Championships in Athens gunning for gold. Britain’s John Whetton got a slight run on him, on the last lap, and although Murphy threw everything into the chase, he fell just short - Whetton winning gold in 3:39.4, Murphy winning silver in 3:39.5.

Despite all his international success, he stayed true to his roots with Clonliffe Harriers. He was one of the many Irish runners to earn legendary status, and one of the few to truly live up to it. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam.

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